Officials delay ice boom removal

Mar 28, 2014

The National Weather Service has issued a Flood Watch for Northern Erie County through Saturday morning over concerns of ice jam flooding. On Lake Erie, however, it's another story where there's so much ice cover the removal of the ice boom has been delayed. 

Ice along the Lake Erie shoreline in downtown Buffalo.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

According to International rules governing the operation of the ice boom, it must be opened by April 1,  unless the eastern basin of Lake Erie is covered by more than 250 square miles of ice.

"On the eastern end of Lake Erie itself is over 1,800 square miles( of ice)," said Paul Yu, Chief of Water Management for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Buffalo.

"We actually landed a helicopter on the lake and we drilled 6 holes in different parts of the lake. And the one closest toward Buffalo there was something like 42-inches thick."

According to Yu, the latest ice boom opening took place on May 3, 1971.  It's hard to tell at this point if that date will be reached this year.

 "We cannot have the entire 1,800 square miles going down the river becaus e that would take forever to get out of the lake," Yu said.

"Considering the maximum amount of square miles going through the Niagara River, you're talking about maybe 10-15 square miles a day at the most. You're talking over 100 days."  

The ice boom is installed every fall to prevent ice from flowing down the Niagara River and damaging the water intakes for the Niagara Power Project.