Niagara Board Describes Changes to Crest of Horseshoe Falls, Addresses Public Concerns

IJC staff
IJC
October 23, 2013

What’s happening to Horseshoe Falls? Is a new power tunnel going to drain Lake Erie?

To offer an update on various priorities and projects, the International Niagara Board of Control hosted its annual public meeting and teleconference on Sept. 19 at the community center in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.

In addition to a face-to-face meeting, a new webinar-teleconference format was employed for the first time by the Board.  A total of about 25 people participated, including members of the public, government officials, IJC Commissioner Dereth Glance, Board members, IJC and Board staff, and associates.

The Board's Canadian Chair, Aaron Thompson, presented information describing the IJC, the Board, the International Niagara Committee, the operation of the Chippawa-Grass Island Pool control structures upstream of Niagara Falls, the Lake Erie-Niagara River ice boom, the new Ontario Power Generation tunnel, and the current and expected water levels of the Great Lakes.  

The presentation also included a section on the changing crest of the Horseshoe Falls.  The Board has been closely monitoring the crestline of the Falls for the past several years, in response to several large blocks of rock falling from the crest. A slide from the Sept. 19 presentation to the public.

A slide from the Sept. 19 presentation to the public.

Historically, the shape of the Horseshoe Falls has alternated between a notch and the familiar horseshoe shape. The reason for the Board’s interest in this matter is that it is charged with, among other things, ensuring an adequate flow over the Falls to provide an unbroken crestline.

Although a number of notable rock falls have occurred in the recent past as Horseshoe Falls recedes, the changes resulting from the rock falls have not resulted in a broken curtain of water over the length of the crestline.

After the presentation, the meeting was opened for public comment, questions, and concerns, presided over by Chair Thompson. The slide presentation shown during the webinar was made available online to callers beforehand on the Board's website, and callers were able to interact with the chairman and other participants during the event.

One attendee wished to know how much water is coming down the Niagara River and whether the new Ontario Power Generation tunnel will drain Lake Erie.  The Board explained that the amount of water entering the river is determined by the level of Lake Erie.  The new tunnel will modify how water goes around Niagara Falls, but will not change how much water leaves Lake Erie.  The flow of water over the Falls is closely monitored to ensure compliance with the Niagara Treaty of 1950 which governs the amount of water that must flow over the Falls.

A slide from the Sept. 19 presentation to the public.

A slide from the Sept. 19 presentation to the public.

In response to a question about adaptive management, Commissioner Glance provided a synopsis of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Adaptive Management Task Team report and noted that the Commission is in the process of considering all of the public comments received on the report.

The date of the Niagara Board’s next meeting with the public will be set by the Board at its March 2014 business meeting.

The Board also launched a new website in September. Content includes information on Board members and responsibilities as well as semi-annual reports to the IJC, meeting minutes, and annual reports on the operation of the ice boom. You can contact board secretaries Chuck Southam or John Kangas with your comments.

The Niagara Board’s Canadian Chair, Aaron Thompson, addresses the public.

The Niagara Board’s Canadian Chair, Aaron Thompson, addresses the public.

IJC staff
IJC