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Hearing set to on 3 proposals for Niagara Falls bridges

A public hearing on the proposals to divert water from the American side of Niagara Falls to build new bridges will be held 5 p.m. Wednesday in the grand ballroom at the Niagara Falls Conference Center, 101 Falls St.

Participants will be able to look at displays and speak to staff from 5 to 6:30 p.m. A presentation will follow.

The 131-page bridges plan is also online at Oral and written comments on the project will be accepted as part of the official record.

Design and cost projections vary and were based on three options:

• Standard two-year construction – which appears to be the preferred option – would divert from the American Falls for five months in the first year, from August to December. The bridges would be demolished and new piers would be anchored to the bedrock. Piers and abutments must be constructed on a dry bed to ensure the foundations are firmly anchored to the bedrock. The river channel must also be dewatered in order to demolish and remove the bridges. Water flow would be restored in late December. Construction would continue in the second year, but the falls would not need to be dewatered again while construction continues in the second year.

• Accelerated construction scenario, which would be completed in one year. This option would divert from the American Falls for nine months, from April through December. It would affect the entire summer tourism season and require 24-hour-a-day construction. There is the potential for significant delay if the project falls behind schedule and is shut down in the winter.

• Extended construction scenario, a three-year plan. This option, which the report calls “not really an option at all,” has already been eliminated from further study due to its high cost and the impact of a three-year timetable. But, as presented, the plan would eliminate the need to divert water from the American and Bridal Veil Falls by relying on a series of partial cofferdams. The river bed would be partially dewatered with flow maintained in other sections.