BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – “Like everybody else, we’re waiting for the ice to clear off the lake and run down the river, and once that happens, then the season will begin,” said Kevin Keenan, spokesman for the Maid of the Mist Corporation.
The tour boat company is expecting a sluggish start to the Niagara River boating season because of the ice boom.
According to Paul Yu, Chief of Water Management, US Army Corps of Engineers, “The boom should be removed by April 1, provided that the ice near the eastern end of Lake Erie is 250 square miles or less.”
“Based on satellite imagery, the entire Lake Erie is about 50 percent ice-covered. On the eastern Lake Erie side, it’s about 80 percent covered,” added Yu.
The Maid of the Mist won’t be running anytime soon as a result.
The US Army Corps of Engineers have been sending teams out on the ice to survey the extent of coverage and thickness.
“We had a helicopter that actually landed on lake Erie in six spots on eastern lake Erie where we drilled to get the thickness of ice,” Yu said.
Several weeks ago, that survey team found the ice to be 43 inches thick closer to Buffalo in the eastern basin. And it’s not just a matter of boating safety and preventing property damage. The primary purpose of the ice boom has always been to alleviate chunks of brash ice from clogging up the Niagara River power intakes.
“It is really important to us and others to make sure that that ice is out of there. From the stand point of the Maid of the Mist, we don’t want anymore ice coming anywhere near the docks or the boats since they are in the water,” said Keenan.
Last year the Maid of the Mist set sail on April 19.
The latest that the ice boom has been removed was May 3 during 1971.
Depending on how much melting we see over the next several weeks, we may be closer to that date before the boom is removed this year.