July 29, 2007
Free the Falls
They turn off the water you know, as if it was some gigantic spigot. At night and in the off season, when the tourists are not around to admire and be awestruck, they turn it off. Well, not off completely although perhaps that is possible and has actually happened, at least once naturally due to the formation of an ice dam one winter.
During the main part of the tourist season 50% of the water is diverted. At night and during the off season about 75% is diverted. The reasons for doing so are multiple, however, it appears to be an extraordinary waste to let all of that potential energy escape. Instead, they reroute it through the hydroelectric plants on both the Canadian and U.S. sides whose power is then shared, by virtue of international accord, between the interested parties, the US and Canada.
However, power isn't the only reason for diverting the the flow of water. Another major consideration is erosion. The falls are receeding toward Lake Erie at a rate of about a couple of inches a year. The rate used to be a foot or so, but the diversion has slowed it down, along with some fix it work on the American Falls by the Army Corp of Engineers, yes, those of Katrina fame.
What is the problem here? Why not just let the falls erode, let nature do its thing? Several reasons, the tourism, shipping and hydroelectric industries all require that the location of the falls be somewhat stabile. Shifting the tourist hotels might be farily easy, but recutting the Welland Ship Canal would be a problem. Another issue is that the bottom of Lake Erie is higher than the bottom of the falls. So, eventually, as the falls receed at whatever rate, the lake will drain.
So, why write this who really cares. I like the ironic juxtaposition that environmentalists have concerned themselves with restraining industry and development in the area, when to my way of thinking, they should be concerned with letting the falls return to their natural state. Let them erode. Free the Falls. I want to see the evolution, the change.
Nonetheless, even in their diminished capacity, it is an awesome sight.
PS For serious fun, try the jet boat trip up the Niagara Gorge.