Update: Plan to 'turn off' Niagara Falls on hold until 2019
Thursday, January 28, 2016, 9:11 AM - New York State officials say there is no funding for a Niagara Falls bridge replacement project that would involve temporarily shutting off the water on the U.S. side while making repairs, and any action around the proposal will need to wait until at least 2019.
During a public hearing Wednesday, regional New York parks chief Mark Thomas said the earliest the project could start would be in 2019 once federal, state or private funding is found.
Once the proposal to replace the two 115-year-old pedestrian bridges is approved, crews would re-direct Niagara River water over the Canadian Horseshoe Falls, leaving the American and Bridal Veil Falls dry for up to nine months, according to Thomas.
It won't be the first time the water in the falls has run dry.
In 1969, U.S. engineers turned off the falls for several months to strengthen the falls' foundation to combat erosion.
"De-watering is expected initially (to) be a tourism draw (a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the falls and river channel without water), but after some period of time could negatively impact park attendance, particularly during the summer tourist season," said a New York state-issued design report.
A temporary structure called a cofferdam would be built to redirect the water, spanning from the upstream tip of Goat Island to the mainland. It would be installed at the same general location as the 1969 cofferdam, according to the report.
Once the existing bridges are demolished and the new ones are built, the cofferdam would be removed and the flow restored to the channel and the American and Bridal Veil Falls. The report indicates it is not anticipated that the cofferdam would result in any long-term impacts to the riverbed or to the falls.
The estimated cost of final design is $2.5 million.
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