Buffalo doesn't have a weather-predicting rodent to announce when spring is getting closer.
But it has something better, said Gil Quiniones, president and CEO of the New York Power Authority.
"The removal of the Lake Erie ice boom in Buffalo is really the most reliable indicator – at least to us at NYPA – of the start of spring," Quiniones said. "It's more accurate than the groundhog, we think."
The lack of notable ice cover this winter on the Niagara River led the New York Power Authority on Monday to begin removing the ice boom.
It's the second earliest time that the 1.7-mile-long boom, installed at the outlet of Lake Erie and the entrance to the river, has begun being removed since the ice boom began its annual deployment in 1964.
The ice boom is a device of 11 hollow steel surface floating pontoons connected by 22 span cables that are anchored to the riverbed at 400-foot intervals by steel stay cables. It is used to prevent ice from flowing through the river and clogging intakes to power plants on both the U.S. and Canadian sides.
The ice boom also prevents ice from flowing and damaging shorelines, marinas and private and public property along the river.
"It's a very, very important mechanism not just for power production, but for safety," Quiniones said.
The Ontario Power Generation and the New York Power Authority own, operate, and maintain the ice boom.
The International Joint Commission and the power entities decide when the ice boom is to be removed.
The earliest the ice boom was removed occurred on Feb. 28, 2012 – just three days earlier than this year.
The latest the ice boom was removed was on May 5, 1971.
Last year, removal of the ice boom did not begin until late April, when some ice still covered parts of Lake Erie near Buffalo. Last year marked the second-longest stay of ice on Lake Erie this century.
It can take several days to more than a week, depending on weather conditions, to remove the ice boom, with 22 sections each needing to be towed into NYPA's maintenance and storage area.
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