BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — This year’s Lake Erie-Niagara River Ice Boom removal looks to be happening on the early end of possibilities.

The International Niagara Board of Control says minimal ice cover on Lake Erie has led to the possibility of starting to open the ice boom’s 21 spans as early as this Thursday, March 2.

The board said that at the end of January, “there was less than one percent of ice cover on Lake Erie.” The water temperature near the ice boom on Tuesday was 34 degrees.

“Due to the lack of ice cover on Lake Erie and the absence of ice in the Maid-of-the-Mist Pool below Niagara Falls, preparations are underway for the removal of the Lake Erie – Niagara River Ice Boom,” the board says.

It’s quite a contrast from last year’s opening date of March 29. In fact, it’s pretty close to the earliest opening date on record — Feb. 28, 2012.

The latest was more than 50 years ago — May 3, 1971. The annual installation of the ice boom has been happening since 1964. The International Niagara Board of Control oversees its installation, but the ice boom itself is owned by the New York Power Authority and Ontario Power Generation.

“A reduction of ice entering the river reduces the potential for ice jams, which can result in damage to shoreline property and significantly reduce water flow for hydro-electric power production,” the board said.

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Evan Anstey is an Associated Press Award, JANY Award and Emmy-nominated digital producer who has been part of the News 4 team since 2015. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.