By Sarah Sterzinger
New York State has made the decision to do the seemingly impossible: turn off Niagara Falls. The decision to “dewater” the mighty Falls was discussed by the New York State’s Park and Transportation Agencies back in Oct. 2015. They decided it was necessary to shut the water off in order to fix and replace the 115-year old bridges that connect the mainland to Goat Island. According to the Agencies’ meeting report, the Falls need to be dewatered in order for the safe construction of the new bridges. The new bridges would allow for safer and more convenient passing to the Falls. The addition of trolley cars to carry tourists from Goat Island to Prospect Point would be able to cross over the bridges safely.
The report explains they plan to construct a “cofferdam” from the tip of Goat Island to the mainland. A cofferdam is an enclosure that allows for water to be pumped out of certain area so construction can be done. The water from the Niagara River, which originally fell on the American side, will be redirect to the Canadian Horseshoe Falls. The water will be diverted for, at most, nine months. The bridge construction, however, will take about two years to be fully completed, according to the Buffalo News.
This isn’t the first time the Falls have run dry either. In 1969, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers installed a cofferdam, like the one they plan to do soon. However, the motives between the 1969 and today’s proposed shutdown differed. Back then, the water was stopped to study the effects of erosion. The dry riverbed brought tourists eager to see a “once in a lifetime” event. Skeletons and a great number of coins were found at the bottom of the waterless cliff. When the water shuts off this time, a number of exciting things could be discovered.
Some locals however, are not excited for this project to happen. Some fear that the riverbed and other natural aspects of the Falls could be affected by the man-made drought. Others fear that the tourism to the area will take a hit, though others point out that seeing the Falls dried out will bring in a new set of tourists. The project is expected to happen during peak tourism season (April-December). In 1969, the city of Niagara Falls reported a “quiet” tourism season, blaming the Dry Falls, according to the Niagara Falls Review. The city of Niagara Falls of today is in a very dangerous place with this project. In recent years, Niagara Falls has fallen on hard times. Tourism is it’s major source of income for the city. On average, Niagara Falls receives 22,500,000 people yearly. A slow tourism season could spell more bad news for the city trying to make its comeback.
However, the new improvements to the National Park could bring more visitors in the future years after the project’s completion. Once the project details are finalized, funds have to be gathered, which is expected to take about two years. The dry Falls are still expected to bring tourists. Talks of guided hikes near the dry riverbed and rock climbing where the absent water usually flowed have been brainstormed in order to keep people interested in the National park. A final decision on the date of draining will be decided in the next few months.