Blocking Off Part Off The Falls Again?- Be Very, Very Careful!!!

The Right Side

By J Gary DiLaura


In January 1985 a massive Ice Jam was caused in the East Upper Niagara River by the Power Authority. A week after the Ice Jam, at a meeting of 500 people in Amherst, the then Army Colonel Hardiman “declared” that the Power Authority did “everything right”. I challenged the Colonel to produce the study he must have conducted to arrive at such a conclusion. When he said they hadn’t conducted any study and he just “assumed” they followed their protocol. I demanded that the Corps conduct a study comparing what they should have done to what they did. He said he would and did.

As a result of that study the Corps conducted, the Corps determined  that PASNY( the Power Authority) FAILED to follow their Ice Control procedures that” they wrote” and  should have followed during the Ice Run. The result was an Ice Jam! The power authority underestimated the Ice Flow along with record high Lake elevations and caused the East Niagara River to jam SOLID with ice from the upper portion of the intakes, along the entire East River, around Grand Island all the way past the Huntley Plant! The ENTIRE EAST River had ZERO flow from 1-21-85 until 2-21-85. Millions of dollars in damage to homeowners, shore line and businesses, along the East River was the result of the Ice Jam and flooding.

In layman terms, the ENTIRE East River STOPPED flowing and was in flood stage for 30 days! The Niagara River from the brink of the American Falls “upriver” to the intakes ( a section of the river called the ice Flushing Channel) FLOWED BACKWARDS FOR THOSE 30 Days!!All because the Power Authority didn’t follow it’s own procedures! That’s a negligence attorney’s dream case. This was all supported by the Army Corp study, their retired Chief Engineer, a former PASNY Ice Control Engineer, depositions from George Berry, head Design Engineer, Chief Construction Engineer  and First Operating Engineer, who wrote the FIRST Ice Control Manual. That manual states, “If you fail to reduce diversions during an Ice Run, you will cause an Ice Jam with resulting flooding”. This was ALSO supported by PASNY employees who actually made and recorded the damaging Ice Flow speed observations. These were employees who were not afraid to tell the truth backed up by their written observations at the critical times.

This chain of events caused me to form a Homeowners Association, conduct an extensive investigation (besides being an  investigator I have a Bachelors in Mech Eng) into what happened. As a result, I filed a 50 million dollar law suit against PASNY on behalf of the homeowners. We settled 15 years later, out of court. I wanted to go to court as we would have won a permanent injunction directing PASNY to follow their Ice Control Manual. I believed THAT to be more important than the money but most wanted to settle, so we did.

Why I say all this is because ALL the nonsense the power authority and to some extent, the Army Corp put out for years and years, that the ice jams and resulting floods, are caused by a “phenomenon in Nature”  were pure crap!

I reviewed EVERY single Ice Jam flood from the beginning of record keeping to 1985 and found with substantiation from FERC, from the Corps, and numerous other sources that each and every flood and Ice Jam was as a result of MAN MADE OBSTRUCTIONS AND/OR ACTIONS IN THE GRASS ISLAND POOL(GIP). That was also what Mr George Berry, the chief designer of the power project, told me, in a recorded interview with him in 1985, when he studied those same records!

If this work on the Falls and the redirection of the falls  takes place during the winter months and IF there is a major Ice Run, the work in the GIP WILL cause an Ice jam, flooding and damage to the riparian’s! This is not a “MAYBE”  but a “FOR SURE”!

I say this because with the new Canadian expansion and their increased diversions along with  PASNY increasing their diversions, when nobody is looking and /or during the construction, there simply won’t be enough water going “past” the PASNY intakes to flush ice! PASNY MUST allow 20% of “actual ”EAST RIVER WATER” flow to go past their intakes to prevent an Ice Jam and keep Ice Velocities high going past the intakes during ice runs. That’s also stated in their Manual !

At a meeting a few years ago, attended by the Corp, FERC, the Public(me) and PASNY  hosted  by the International Joint Commission (IJC) I asked this question, “From which part of the Grass Island Pool is the power project designed to take water “? No one knew the answer! Unbelievable! The answer is the EAST river and the EAST river only.

Even if PASNY cuts diversions to zero it may not be enough, because during similar work in the GIP the exact same thing happened which caused Mother Nature to rip out a road that was built, under water, from the upstream end of Goat Island running towards the control structure on the Canadian side. Once the river ripped out the MAN MADE road, the Ice Jam, flooding and damage stopped. Interestingly the Army Corps said that this was a phenomenon of Nature, until we discovered that this road was there until it was ripped out by Mother Nature. I believe this was the March 1953 Ice Jam Flood. The Corps then changed their tune.

A statement George Berry made to me said it all. He said that “he” screwed up” when he and the other design engineers believed that no matter what  “man” did in the GIP, all they had to do is to “turn the River back to Nature”( zero diversion) and it would take care of itself. When he realized they made a big miscalculation, as witnessed by the major Ice Jams that shut the power plant down during their first winter of operation, he took significant steps to PREVENT  the reoccurrence. Incidentally, Mr Berry told me the reason the Love Canal Project failed was because of the same problem, the Love Canal designers underestimated the impact of  ICE and that bankrupted their project!

I also want to say that Mr Berry, who passed away several years ago, was a brilliant, honest and very forthright man. It was an honor to speak with a man of his integrity and genius! Integrity that PASNY apparently lost when he left!

According to Mr Berry, in PASNY’s 2nd year of operation and solely because of the Ice problem  they doubled the width of the Ice Flushing channel, began installing the Ice Boom, purchased Ice Breakers, and most important of all, he wrote the first Ice Control Manual. He wrote the manual as a result of real time studies, models and “reinventing the wheel”. He said that they simply MUST allow enough water to flow past the intakes and absolutely keep the ice flowing during Ice Runs. The magic number is 20%, that is 20% of East River Flow MUST flow past the intakes with the determining factor, over all others, being Ice speed past the intakes. It must not drop below a specific speed specified in their Ice Control Manual, or it will stop!

PASNY got so scared from our lawsuit and our knowledge of their operation that they now use the Patriot Act to hide River Flows, their diversions, lake levels and all other formerly public information. It is now, a “National Security secret”, what river flow is! Do you believe it? For well over a 100 years river flows were public info, now it’s a SECRET! For over 100 years river flow average was 204,000cfs with a 60/40 split between the East and West Rivers the East average is 80,000cfs. They can only take 80% of East River flow or 64,000cfs, during Ice runs, leaving 16,000cfs to flush Ice! There now I’m like Hillary and put Secret info on my insecure server!

If those planning on doing the work on the Falls plan on having the Falls blocked during the Winter, I have some good advice for them, DON’T do it! Get it done during open water flows, NO Ice!! If you don’t and we riparian’s are damaged again, we won’t settle again. Don’t rely on what the Power Authority tells you. Buy a very large insurance bond and have a hydraulic Engineer examine the Corp report raw data and chart from the January 21,1985 event. It’s pretty straight forward if you understand that water can’t flow upstream, naturally. When the elevation at Material dock(near the brink of the Falls) is HIGHER than the elevation at PASNY intakes, water is flowing UPSTREAM, for over 1.5 miles, WHILE THE RIVER IS IN FLOOD STAGE!!! Even Mother Nature can’t do that, but PASNY did!

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