International Control Structure, located in Niagara Falls, upriver of the falls, is a hydroelectric dam line running partway along the river.
Joint US/Canadian Project
Commonly mistake for a hydroelectric dam, the Control Structure is a ‘weir’ – a regulator of sorts, built in 1954 as a joint collaboration between the United States and Canadian governments. It was the result of an agreement to impose tighter management on the use of hydroelectric energy in the Niagara area. While the river is a fantastic source of water-generated power, care must be taken to manage water flow. The Control Structure, extending over 1,500 feet from the shore, is part of what allows that management to happen.
The weir contains a system of gates that, when opened, direct water into hydro tunnels for use in hydroelectric power generation. These massive channels run under the town of Niagara Falls and open into reservoirs and tanks at the dedicated Canadian and United States hydroelectric plants – Sir Adam Beck and Robert Moses Power Plant respectively. Combined, these channels draw up to 90,000 cubic feet of water per second.
Regulating the Water into Niagara Falls
When closed, the weir restricts use hydroelectric use and the barrier directs water more towards the western side of the river, and in extension to the Bridal Veil and American Falls. This means a more even distribution of water flow across the various waterfalls.
The weir opens and closes depending on current circumstances. The gates mostly open at night, to lessen any impact on tourism and keep the water flow over the falls continuous. Hydroelectric use may be more restricted from May to October, both due to the tourism season and the fact that water levels can fluctuate more this time of year.
This is only a small part of the massive system that provides a quarter of the power used in Ontario and the state of New York. The weir stands as both a testament to the collaborative effort of international engineering in Niagara Falls, and an impressive structure of its own accord.