Niagara River ice boom installation complete

Dec 23, 2016

After several days of tough winter weather, crews finished up the installation of the Lake Erie/Niagara River Ice Boom Thursday.

“It took several days this year we started right on Friday December 16,” said Lou Paonessa, community affairs director of Western New York for the New York Power Authority. We got a little bit done over the weekend on Saturday but then had a couple of rough weather days the waves were too high and then they were able to finish up yesterday.”

The ice boom consists of 22 spans of large steel pontoons that stretch about two miles across the lake, from Buffalo, N.Y., to the shores of Fort Erie, Ontario.

The power authority and Ontario Power Generation are responsible for its annual installation and removal.

Peter Kowalski, operating manager at the Ontario Power Generation's Niagara River Control Board said large-scale ice blockages could slow the flow of water and power generation.

"Without the ice boom, pans of ice would form on the lake and continue to flow out, creating issues for hydropower management downstream, issues for water management, the occurrence of blockages in the river,” he said. "So the ice boom really helps to mitigate all those kinds of things."

Hydro-electric companies in the U.S. and Canada depend on the constant flow of the Niagara River to provide electricity for millions of residents on both sides of the border.

About 4,000 megawatts of electricity goes into two separate grids. In Canada, it's distributed throughout Ontario. In New York, it's distributed statewide, but also goes to six neighboring states: Ohio, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey and Rhode Island.