Turning Off the Faucet: Niagara Falls May Trickle for Repairs

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (AP) -
The Maid of the Mist tour boat sails at the base of the American Falls in Niagara Falls, NY. (AP Photo/David Duprey, File)
The Maid of the Mist tour boat sails at the base of the American Falls in Niagara Falls, NY. (AP Photo/David Duprey, File)

New York officials are considering temporarily turning Niagara Falls into a trickle.

Plans to replace two 115-year-old pedestrian bridges could involve shutting down the water flowing over one section of the falls by building a temporary structure to redirect it to another.

It was done once before, for a 1969 study of erosion.

The result then, as now, would be a rare look at the rock formations that lie beneath the American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls on the United States side of the tourist draw, and perhaps an even more robust Canadian Horseshoe Falls, where 85 percent of the water flows over normally. Together, the three waterfalls fed by the Niagara River along the northern border comprise Niagara Falls.

“Dewatering is expected initially (to) be a tourism draw (a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the falls and river channel without water),” said a state-issued design report. It acknowledged the novelty could wear off in time and hurt park attendance.

One construction scenario would leave the American and Bridal Veil Falls dry for five months, from August through December. The second plan being considered would require a nine-month dry spell, from April through December.

Niagara Falls author and historian Paul Gromosiak remembers speaking with tourists during near nightly walks to the American Falls after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completed the 1969 dewatering.

“People were astounded at the site and the lack of the sound,” Gromosiak said Monday. “Those who had been there before missed the sound of the falls, not just the beauty but the sound.”

He said he would rather not see the water diverted again and urged the state to find another way to replace the bridges.

“When you take something so impressive, so mesmerizing and affect it in such a significant way,” he said, “to me, it just destroys the impact it should have.”

The state has scheduled a public hearing for Wednesday in the Niagara Falls Convention Center.