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High water levels temporarily halt Maid of the Mist service

NIAGARA FALLS – Maid of the Mist boat rides were suspended Friday morning because of high water levels – the result of a large release of water over the falls.

The lower Niagara River lapped over the pier where tourists board the Maid of the Mist boats. Rides resumed after the river level receded in the afternoon.

Peter Kowalski, manager of the Niagara River Control Center, said the need to release additional water over the falls was the result of cool and dry weather, which cut generating demands for the water at the hydropower plant.

Maid of the Mist and Niagara River Control Center discussed the need to release the water as early as Thursday afternoon. The water was released at about 8 a.m. Friday. The tour boats resumed operating shortly before 1 p.m.

Niagara River Control Center works with the New York Power Authority and the Ontario Power Generation to manage the falls and ensure the two organizations are complying with all international and state regulations.

Kowalski said this is not the first time that additional water has been released over the falls, recalling that it happened a number of times earlier in the year.

“Typically we like to (release the water) overnight. In this particular case, we had no choice but to spill it in the morning,” Kowalski said.

Officials are unable to predict when overflows will occur because of the uncertainty of the weather, Kowalski said.

Kevin Keenan, a spokesman for Maid of the Mist, said while the two groups were in constant communication, it leaves the business high and dry for the time they have to shut down service.

“Regardless (the communication) once they make that decision, it costs us business,” Keenan said. “They made a decision that idled our boats. There’s nothing we can do about that once they make a decision.”

The interrupted service came on a holiday weekend considered one of the busiest of the year.

Boats operated by Hornblower Niagara Cruises in Niagara Falls, Ont., also were idle Friday morning, Keenan said.

Hornblower officials could not be reached to comment.

email: jreiland@buffnews.com