Winter remains several weeks away, but the New York Power Authority is already beefing up its icebreaking presence on the Niagara River with the newest addition to its fleet. Breaker II was introduced and christened Wednesday morning in Buffalo.
The 56-foot vessel was built by Blount Boats and Shipyard in Rhode Island, launched in February 2020 and completed a 700 nautical mile journey through the New York State Canal System before arriving at the Katherine Street slip in Buffalo for its formal dedication.
"The Breaker II is a first for us, the shipyard's first United States Coast Guard-certified subchapter M towing vessel. The Coast Guard began requiring tug certifications in 2017," explained Marcia Blount, president of the shipbuilding company.
The craft includes a reinforced hull, a state-of-the-art navigation and radar system which is capable of performing in severely cold weather, and redundant steering and power systems which may serve as a backup in the event the primary system fails while the boat is in use.
Breaker II will join three other craft to keep the Niagara River flowing during the winter months, breaking up ice jams which threaten to disrupt the water intakes needed for hydroelectric power production.
"It's at 2,600 megawatts of clean low-cost electricity. We use that to make sure that the economic welfare of the region and the state at whole is kept intact," said New York Power Authority executive vice president Joseph Kessler. "The Niagara River, we want to make sure it doesn't get clogged. We'll make sure the intakes are clean, and this is one of the vessels we're going to use to do that."
The newest addition to NYPA's fleet will also work with the other vessels to install the ice boom. Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, who had the honor of breaking the ceremonial champagne bottle on Breaker II's bow, spoke of the importance of water in New York State's history, dating back to the Erie Canal. She also spoke of her personal love for being near the water.
"I love the water. I live on the water. I literally watch out my window when the ice boom is being put in," she said. "But I have to tell you, to be honest with you, nothing makes me happier than when it's removed. Because that's the official sign of spring in Western New York."