The American side of Niagara Falls could soon run dry, if a new proposal from the New York State Office of Parks achieves regulatory approval.
Earlier this month, the agency announced its intention to temporarily dewater American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls, two of three adjacent waterfalls collectively known as Niagara Falls, to replace a series of aging bridges that connect various parts of Niagara Falls State Park.
Over a century old, the concrete arch bridges cross over the Niagara River to provide pedestrian access to Goat Island. Since their construction in 1900, the structures have deteriorated significantly; they were closed in 2004, when park authorities ordered the construction two temporary bridges above the ailing concrete overpasses.
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A new environmental impact reported concluded that the original bridges are too significantly deteriorated to be successfully rehabilitated, and must be completely replaced.
Officials explain that the replacement bridges must be constructed "‘in the dry' [...] to ensure that the new foundations are firmly anchored to bedrock" and to facilitate the complete removal of the original bridge once it is demolished.
While dewatering Niagara Falls may seem like a task of Herculean proportions, more than 80 percent of the Niagara River flows over Canada's Horseshoe Falls. A cofferdam will redirect the entire river over Horseshoe Falls, leaving the much smaller American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls dry.
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Although the entire construction process is slated to take two years, the falls will be dewatered for less than six months.
The American side of Niagara Falls was last dewatered in 1969, when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conducted a geological survey to investigate erosion of the iconic landmark: