The ice boom is coming out early again.
New York Power Authority marine crews began work Monday morning to remove the 22-span barrier where Lake Erie flows into the Niagara River.
“The last time I talked to them, they’d removed a couple sections before noon,” said Andrew Kornacki, chief of public affairs for the Buffalo District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Complete removal of the boom usually takes two or three days, he said, weather permitting.
Current images of the boom can be seen online at iceboom.nypa.gov.
The warmest February on record in Buffalo and lack of ice on Lake Erie has led to one of the earliest dates for the removal of the boom. The earliest ever removal was Feb. 28, 2012.
“For the second consecutive year, mild weather conditions for most of this winter season have resulted in little to no ice cover on Lake Erie,” according to an International Joint Commission statement issued Monday. “Considering the lack of ice cover on the lake and the absence of an ice buildup in the Maid-of-the-Mist Pool below Niagara Falls, preparations are underway for the removal of the Lake Erie-Niagara River Ice Boom.”
Last year, which was also an abnormally warm winter, the ice boom removal started March 8.
There is currently no ice on Lake Erie, according to data from the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory. There has been less than 1 percent ice on the lake since Feb. 22, the data shows.
That’s dramatically below average.
Usually, about half of Lake Erie is still encrusted in ice during the first week in March. Ice coverage on Lake Erie, and the Great Lakes at large, has run below average most of this winter.
The Lake Erie-Niagara River Ice Boom has been a winter fixture at the outlet of Lake Erie since 1964.
The boom is designed to prevent ice from entering the Niagara River to reduce chances for ice jamming, which could impact shoreline properties along the Niagara River and hydro-electric production, the IJC reported.
News Staff Reporter Dale Anderson contributed to this report.