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Niagara Falls News

American Falls Could Be “Shut Off”, Again

Niagara Falls shut off

The American and Bridal Falls could be “shut off” like they were in 1969 if a proposed plan to repair two stone bridges connected to Goat Island is approved. The New York State Parks system needs to repair the stone bridges that connect the mainland to Green Island and Green Island and Goat Island. To do that the State will be proposing that the flow of water over the American and Bridal Falls be halted during construction.

Niagara Falls shut off

American Falls “shut off”

In the 1960’s concerns grew over the steady erosion of the American and Bridal Falls. It was decided that the flow of water would be stopped in order that the face of the Gorge cliff could be examined. So the flow was stopped on June 12th 1969 by the Army Corp of Engineers.

American Falls cofferdam

Construction of Cofferdam

A cofferdam was constructed by Sevenson Construction on June 12th and removed on November 25th after it was decided that the huge mound of boulders at the base of the  American Falls were in part holding up the cliff face. So the Engineers decided to do some “minor” reconstruction and securing of the rock bed.

Now the State needs to shore up and repair the two stone and concrete pedestrian bridges and it is very possible that once again the flow to the American Falls will again be damned off.

The three proposals that the State will be discussing at the public hearing Wednesday at the Niagara Falls Conference Center are as follows in the order of preference:

• Standard two-year construction which would divert water from the American Falls for five months in the first year, from August to December. The bridges would be demolished and new piers would be anchored to the bedrock. Piers and abutments must be constructed on a dry bed to ensure the foundations are firmly anchored to the bedrock. The river channel must also be dewatered in order to demolish and remove the bridges. Water flow would be restored in late December. Construction would continue in the second year, but the falls would not need to be dewatered again while construction continues in the second year.

• Accelerated construction scenario, which would be completed in one year. This option would divert from the American Falls for nine months, from April through December. It would affect the entire summer tourism season and require 24-hour-a-day construction. There is the potential for significant delay if the project falls behind schedule and is shut down in the winter.

• Extended construction scenario, a three-year plan. This option has already been eliminated for all practical purposes and without further study due to its high cost and the impact of a three-year timetable. But, as presented, the plan would eliminate the need to divert water from the American and Bridal Veil Falls by relying on a series of partial cofferdams. The river bed would be partially dewatered with flow maintained in other sections.

When the Falls were “shut off” in 1969 they became a tourist attraction in their own right and that was well before social media or even the use of video tape or recording devices. Should the Falls again be damned and shut-down for an extended period of time the images and video would be viewed world-wide and undoubtedly draw millions to view this rarity in person.

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