Section 6: Lake Erie - Niagara River Ice Boom

6.1 Why do the Power Entities install an Ice Boom at the outlet of Lake Erie each winter?

The ice boom is installed each year to accelerate the formation and stabilization of the natural ice arch that forms at the outlet of Lake Erie near the head of the Niagara River. The Ice Boom is installed to reduce the frequency and duration of heavy ice runs into the Niagara River. These ice runs may cause ice jams, damage shoreline property, and reduce hydropower diversions.

6.2 Who approves the installation of the Ice Boom at the outlet of Lake Erie each winter? 

The International Joint Commission, through an Order of Approval originally issued in 1964 and last amended in 1999, approves the installation of the ice boom in accordance with the terms of the Order.

6.3 What role does the International Niagara Board of Control play with respect to the Ice Boom?

The INBC consults with representatives of the Power Entities and such interests as the INBC considers may be affected by the opening of the boom. The Board informs the IJC on the installation, operation and removal of the boom, the formation, retention and recession of the ice cover and ice conditions in the Niagara River. The Board receives formal reports on a regular basis from the Power Entities and advises the IJC when required. The Board reviews the operation of the Ice Boom when circumstances require but no less frequently than once every five years.

6.4 Does installing the Ice Boom at the outlet of Lake Erie affect the length of the winter in the Niagara area?

A study completed by the National Academy of Science in 1983 found no evidence that the Ice Boom affects the temperatures in the Niagara area.

6.5 Who owns and maintains the Ice Boom?

The Power Entities (Ontario Power Generation and the New York Power Authority) own, operate, and maintain the Ice Boom.

6.6 Who makes the decision as to when to remove the Ice Boom?

The Order of Approval for the Ice Boom requires that it is removed by April 1st. However, depending upon the ice and weather conditions, its removal may be delayed if the ice cover in the eastern section of Lake Erie is greater than 650 km2 or downstream conditions would be negatively impacted by the boom’s removal. Representatives of the INWC and the Power Entities regularly communicate during the ice season, and based on conditions, decide when the Ice Boom is to be removed. The INBC issues a media advisory once the final decision has been made to remove the ice boom.