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Oct. 21, 2021 | Thursday
Local News
Ka-boom: Lake Erie ice boom travels over falls and washes up in NOTL
Niagara-on-the-Lake residents Donald O’Connor and his wife Martha stumbled upon this broken ice boom during a walk with dog Ace in Niagara Shores Park. (Donald O’Connor/Supplied)

And suddenly, there it was. Boom.

When Donald O’Connor and his wife Martha were out walking their dog Ace in Niagara Shores Park on Sunday, they stumbled upon an odd item washed up on shore.

A two-tonne, 10-metre long, rusty, cylindrical object was beached alongside the usual logs and other lake detritus.

Further investigation showed it carried a message welded into one of the end caps: “NYPA – 2017 05 9” and a U.S. phone number “716-285-3211.”

That’s the New York Power Authority and the object is an ice boom pontoon, apparently part of a 22-section ice boom that keeps ice on Lake Erie from flowing down the Niagara River and causing damage to shoreline properties and the power plant intakes.

The Buffalo News reported on Feb. 27 that seven sections of the ice boom broke loose and were seen floating in the river. 

Around the same time, videos were posted on social media showing a massive wall of ice surging onto shore in Fort Erie.

When O’Connor saw the big boom, he says he knew exactly what it was. He’d seen it – or one similar – before. He was showing friends from Vancouver around Niagara Falls in March and spotted an ice boom embedded in the ice at the base of the falls near the Maid of the Mist dock.

“The ice boom was in plain view. It was lying on top of the ice with lots of other debris. There were plastic barrels and garbage and lumber. So, I guess, finally it floated down the river and made its way to Lake Ontario,” he said in an interview.

The boom washed up about three kilometres west of where the Niagara River empties into Lake Ontario, not far from the new NOTL sewage treatment plant.

O’Connor said he has spoken to the New York Power Authority twice this week. “They don’t seem all that worried about it,” he said. 

One official told him, “Now, we have to figure out how to get it back.”

Canadian Coast Guard officials said they were working with the New York Power Authority to recover the pontoon and return it to the United States. While it was beached when O’Connor found it, that could change if water levels increase or a storm hits the area.

If the pontoon floats back into Lake Ontario, it could pose a hazard for ships and small watercraft, the Coast Guard said.

It’s not the first time an ice boom pontoon has crossed the border this year.

The Niagara Parks Police Service posted pictures Tuesday of a heavy-duty tow truck in Niagara Falls hoisting another ice boom to get it ready for the return journey. That pontoon was pushed up onto the bank on the Canadian side above Horseshoe Falls.