MASSENA - Supervisor Joseph D. Gray called it a positive jumping off point, while Waddington Supervisor Mark Scott said it was an encouraging first step.
They and others left a meeting with the New York Power Authority last week hopeful that the agency may cooperate and negotiate additional benefits for the area next year.
The 10th anniversary of the 2003 Federal Energy Regulatory Commission agreement, which enables NYPA to run the St. Lawrence-FDR Power Project for 50 years, has sparked discussion in recent months. The relicensing agreement provided benefits to the host communities most affected by the power projects construction.
Within the agreement was a provision: every decade NYPA and the host communities could review and discuss issues not anticipated in 2003.
That language has left officials hopeful for additional benefits at the 10-year mark. Mayor James F. Hidy organized an initial meeting last week about the 2013 review. The meetings attendees included Mr. Gray, Mr. Scott, Louisville Supervisor Larry R. Legault, Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, State Senator Joseph A. Griffo and James Reagen, a staffer from Senator Patricia A. Ritchies office. NYPAs vice president of government relations, Joseph Leary, and vice president for project development and licensing, John Suloway, also attended.
NYPA officials were open to reviewing and addressing the host communities wishes for potential projects next year, Mr. Gray said.
The power authority seems more receptive than I anticipated to discussing a variety of issues, he said.
The host communities will prioritize projects they want NYPA involvement in and bring them back to the agency for consideration, Mr. Gray said.
We have not gotten into specifics yet, Mr. Gray said.
Opinions differ among officials on the projects NYPA should undertake.
Mr. Legault said he would like NYPA to focus on riverfront and shoreline development in Louisville.
Im not in favor of more money to spend it as we like, Mr. Legault said. Im more for saying, What can you do to help the host communities with economic development, with helping our shoreline development, our tourism?
Mr. Scott said Waddington will be pushing for additional boating and campground facilities, a walking trail from Coles Creek State Park to the village and the transfer of NYPA-owned Ogden Island to the town. Additional monetary contributions should also be included in the negotiation, he said. None of those projects and ideas are guaranteed, Mr. Scott said.
Despite the specific language in the first agreement, the review process should be positive for the river communities. Nothing is off the table, he said. The feeling when we left the meeting was that there was some room for positive discussion.
Mr. Griffos and Ms. Russells pledges of support also encouraged Mr. Scott. He also hoped NYPA would provide additional monetary benefits to the communities, but wasnt sure how much yet.
Im hopeful well be able to work with the power authority to bring further benefits to the river communities, he said. Hopefully (NYPA) will follow through on their initial indication of cooperation moving forward.
NYPA, however, will not be assisting Massena in repairing the breached downtown weir, Mr. Hidy said. He had hoped the agency could help him repair the weir, which he said would restore Grasse River water levels and provide for additional recreational activities. The project falls outside of NYPAs responsibilities outlined in the relicensing agreement, he said.
I dont blame them. I can see where theyre coming from, and I respect that, he said.
In June, the local government task force appointed the Duncan, Weinberg, Genzer & Pembroke law firm of Washington, D.C., to provide legal assistance during the review process at a rate of $240 per hour, for a maximum of $3,500. The task force was to pay for the firm through approximately $30,000 left over from the 2003 agreement held in the St. Lawrence County treasurers office.
The task force has not yet utilized the firm because it needed to check with other clients, the River Valley Redevelopment Agency and Massena Electric Department, to ensure there were no conflicts of interest.
That doesnt sit well with Mr. Gray, who said the task force may retain a different law firm instead or go without legal assistance if negotiations continue to go well.
They may not be the best fit for us, he said of the Duncan firm.
Mr. Legault said he hoped the task force would still retain some type of legal assistance to ensure officials were pursuing every avenue possible during the review.
Its nice if you can do things without an attorney, Mr. Legault said. Sometimes you need an attorney.
Mr. Griffo could not be reached for comment on Monday.