Saturday, March 28, 2009

Niagara River ice boom degrades environment, says amateur scientist

Ice floes need to flow again on the Niagara River, says Joseph Barrett.

Barrett is a serious fisherman and amateur scientist who has spent a decade trying to prove that the backup of ice caused by the river's ice boom has seriously harmed the environment.

The ice boom is an 8,800-foot long pontoon stretched across Lake Erie, near its outlet to the Niagara River (see live pictures of the ice boom here). The boom blocks winter ice from flowing down the river and over the world-famous falls.

Were the ice left free to flow, it would clog the intakes of the massive turbines of the Niagara Power Project, about 4.5 miles downstream of the falls.

In fact, such an event occurred just last year. On Jan. 30, 2008, a storm broke two spans on the ice boom, releasing ice floes down the Niagara River. Sure enough, the floes wound up blocking the water intakes at the hydroelectric plant down the river, causing electrical generation to drop occasionally to 25% of normal output.

While the ice boom has helped the power plant's electricity roll smoothly, Barrett says it has also prevented the nutrient-rich ice from crossing over to Lake Ontario and feeding thousands of tiny ecosystems along the way.

River ice also pushes sediment up against banks and islands. The lack of ice, Barrett says, is partly responsible for Strawberry Island's erosion from about 100 acres to 3 acres over the past few decades. (F
or a photo of the island, click here, then scroll down.)

Barrett also provides other examples of the damage wrought by the effects of the ice boom.

What do you think? Should the New York Power Authority and Ontario Power Generation let loose
some or all of the ice, and find some other way to divert the floes from the intakes?


Anonymous said...

It is interesting to watch how slowly things progress. Here I am 100% correct, yet people are afraid to use their own minds to just think things through, the way I did and to see the truth. People in general are selfish, lazy and self centered. Only when something threatens their world, do they respond. I thought huge numbers of people would have supported my cause. It certainly affects enough of us. All of the efforts to restore the lower Great Lakes are futile if the annual cycle is not restored first. People are so arrogant in their belief that they can control mother nature for their own benefit. Others are cowards for allowing it. The history books will get a good laugh out of future generations when they read of this period in time when the ice boom stopped the proccess of spring time rejuvenation. jbb

Anonymous said...

I, Joseph B. Barrett can be reached at P.O. Box 1200, N.T., N.Y. 14120 or

Arun Sinha said...

Thank you for posting your comments, Mr. Barrett. It's hard to up-end the status quo. In the long term, however, Nature always wins.

Anonymous said...

Yes she does, I hope we live to see it. jbb

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