LAKE CHAMPLAIN-The Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans), the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT), the United States Coast Guard (USCG) and the New York State Emergency Management Office (SEMO) are warning people that the ice surrounding the site of the Lake Champlain Bridge and near Ticonderoga, NY will not be the same as in years' past, and that recreational activities in the area should be conducted with extreme caution.
The establishment of a new 24-hour ferry service between Chimney Point, Vermont and Crown Point, New York will prevent ice from forming in the vicinity of the Lake Champlain Bridge. Ferries will move continuously from shore to shore to prevent ice from forming. In addition, the Fort Ticonderoga cable ferry which runs between Shoreham and Ticonderoga has installed bubblers and a thermal warming system to extend its operation into the winter months. Though the ferry is not operating 24/7, ice along the cable route will be minimal, if present at all.
No one knows exactly how far the ferry routes will affect the adjacent iced regions, but ferry traffic will certainly weaken the ice in those areas. The VTrans, NYSDOT, USCG, and SEMO are cautioning those who ice fish, operate snow mobiles, or drive all-terrain-vehicles that the ice around the bridge site and the Ticonderoga ferry is unsafe, even during stretches of extreme cold.
"The ferry service will alleviate much of the burden put on commuters when the Lake Champlain Bridge closed to all traffic on Oct. 16, but the ferries pose new risks to those who may try to cross the lake on their own once ice begins to form," said VTrans Secretary David Dill. "People need to understand that ice conditions near the bridge will no longer be normal."
With unstable ice conditions due to the ferry operations, state-to-state transit across the ice is even more dangerous this year. All persons are advised to stay off the ice and to keep clear of the ferry routes and Lake Champlain Bridge, which itself will be a construction zone as crews work all winter to remove debris from the 80-year-old structure so that a new bridge can be erected in its place.
"Until the bridge is demolished it is at risk of collapse, especially during high wind conditions and when temperatures fall below 25 degrees Fahrenheit," said NYSDOT Acting Commissioner Stanly Gee. "Further, once we demolish the bridge, the entire area will be a construction zone as we remove and dismantle bridge sections from the lake's channel and shore. The public should be aware of their responsibility to stay clear of the area and put safety first when making recreational or travel plans in the region."
"Our first concern is the safety for both residents and first responders," said John R. Gibb, Director of the State Emergency Management Office. "Even in normal years, local responders are called to rescue folks. This is not a normal year. It has new challenges and that means people have to use common sense and keep safety in mind when planning their outdoor activities. We continue to work with DOT and other involved State agencies to ensure that first responders are able to serve the community throughout the demolition and construction phase of this project."
"No ice is safe ice," said Senior Chief Petty Officer Louis Coleman, officer in charge of Coast Guard Station Burlington. "A person who falls through the ice has an estimated survival time of 20 minutes. Because the response time near the Lake Champlain Bridge area is over an hour, chances of survival are slim at best should a person find himself in need of emergency assistance.".