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Removal of the 1.6-mile string of 30-foot timbers that make up the Niagara River ice boom will begin Wednesday and should be completed by the weekend, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesman said today.

"We flew over it (Lake Erie) Friday, and there were 260 square miles of ice," said John Derbyshire. "The magic number is 250, so we decided it would dissipate over the next few days."

Most of the eight-to-14-inch thick ice was jammed into the eastern end of the lake between Buffalo and Fort Erie, Ont., shoved up against the timber barrier that keeps it out of the Niagara River.

The boom is erected by the New York State Power Authority each winter to protect power intakes and shoreline property from damage.

Last year, boom removal started April 20. The earliest date for the work was March 6, in 1987, and the latest was May 3, in 1971. The average is April 7.

Derbyshire said the days of a log boom may be numbered. The Power Authority is looking at a new, sealed steel pipe boom used to keep ice out of the St. Lawrence Seaway.

"It rides higher on the water," he said, "and it may be more cost effective to replace the wood boom."

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