State Power Authority crews are prepared to start the annual local rite of winter: installing the Niagara River ice boom.
"(The lake's) 42 degrees today and I would think work would start in less than a week," predicted Andrew Piacente of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. "If it gets cold it only takes a couple of days to lower the water temperature." The boom can go into the water once the temperature hits 39 degrees.
Crews using tugs pulled the 22 sections of the log and steel cable boom out of its land-based storage site over the past five days and are ready to move them out into the river once the water temperature drops three more degrees. Crews towed the buoys and attached them to river bottom anchors over the past few days.
The boom is designed to trigger the formation of a stable ice pack and prevent movement of floes down the river. Ice floes are blamed for shoreline damage and disrupting generation of electricity at the Robert Moses and Ontario Hydro generating stations. Installation of the boom is regulated by the International Joint Commission, which has jurisdiction over the U.S.-Canadian waterway.
Last year's severe winter led to the boom's being installed by Dec. 8, two weeks earlier than the average of the previous 10 years. The earliest installation on record is Nov. 8, 1966. The latest was Jan. 9, 1974. The job, which usually takes about a week, started Dec. 19, 1973, and took 22 days.