Breakdown of how NYS would turn off the Falls

Posted at 10:24 AM, Jan 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-28 08:21:40-05

Sometime in the next few years, New York State may turn off Niagara Falls. It'll be the first time it's happened in more than 40 years.

Officials say the plan is at least three years away and the money still has to be secured for the design in construction of the bridges. But with community meetings being held, that leaves many asking: What would the plan look like?

Want to see what the Falls look like without the water? Click here!

7 Eyewitness News now has documents from the State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and the State Department of Transportation that detail the plan to replace two bridges that were built in 1900-1901.

The plan has been in the works since at least July 2009, when a study was done looking at the replacement of the bridges. A more extensive project scoping report was completed in June 2013.

That plan looks at replacing the bridges from the mainland to Green Island and from Green Island to Goat Island. Both bridges were temporarily closed in 2004 due to deterioration until a Mabey truss structure was put in.

The truss structure "is not consistent with the historic character of the area," according the report, which says on top of restricting views of the rapids, the structure hasn't halted the deterioration of the bridges, which continue to fall apart into the river below.

Both bridges are considered "critical linkage within the park" but the 2013 report looked at rehabilitation possibilities as well as replacements. However, in a design report from October 2015, rehabilitation had been scrapped as a feasible idea.

For starters, the bridges again had to be temporarily closed in 2013 for repairs. The bridges were also closely inspected and officials found the type of construction used in the bridges (reinforced concrete earth filled arches) as well as the "extensive deterioration" would not allow for rehabilitation.

To replace the bridges, the state will pay around $5 million for the design and the construction would cost somewhere between $21.37-$37.32 million.

Three options are being considered to replace the bridges - precast concrete arch bridges, steel girder bridges, or tied arch bridges.

To replace the bridges, the Niagara River must first be "dewatered." That would be accomplished by constructing a temporary cofferdam from the upstream tip of Goat Island to the mainland. That would expose the American and Bride Veil Falls, expose the bedrock and redirect the river flow to the Horseshoe Falls.

The report says it's expected this will be a tourism draw, at least temporarily, to see a "once-in-a-lifetime" event. But the report also says that over the course of the summer, it could hurt park attendance and tourism, especially as construction continues.

The report gives two viable construction scenarios. The first estimates the Falls would be dewatered for five months, from August to December. The bridges would then be demolished and piers would be installed. By late December, water flow would be restored. The following year, construction would continue and the water would be allowed to flow during that process. It would be a two-year process.

The second scenario is an accelerated construction schedule. It would require the Falls be dewatered for nine months, from April through December. It would require 24-hour per day construction and runs the risk of falling behind. But construction would only last one year.

All of these plans will be broken down for the public at a meeting Wednesday night in Niagara Falls in the Grand Ballroom of the Niagara Falls Conference Center. The public hearing begins at 5 p.m. with an information session. The formal presentation begins at 6:30 p.m.

Public comments are due by Feb 10. They should be sent to:

Mr. Mark Thomas
Director, Western District
Prospect Parks, PO Box 1133
Niagara Falls, NY 14303
Attention: Ron Peters



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