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Government Task Force requests meeting with NYPA

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St. Lawrence Local Government Task Force members asked the New York Power Authority to renegotiate conditions outlined in the St. Lawrence-Franklin D. Roosevelt Power Project’s 2003 relicensing settlement agreement in a letter sent Tuesday.

The Task Force hopes the letter is the first of many communications with the Power Authority which will ultimately result in a new settlement deal. The initial deal included $16 million and 20 megawatts of hydropower for the purpose of economic development.

Every 10 years after the relicensing, NYPA is required to review the terms of the agreement with the task force.

According to the agreement, “unanticipated events” that occurred after the relicensing could be just cause for a review of the agreement’s terms. And that’s what Task Force Chairman and Massena Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray is counting on.

Mr. Gray said that several economic factors, including the closure of the General Motors plant in 2008, call for a new settlement.

“No one in their wildest dreams could have predicted in 2002 the implosion of General Motors,” Mr. Gray said. “It was a $13 million hit to the Massena tax base, not to mention the loss of jobs. It put a bigger property tax burden on the people in the community.”

Task Force members said they could also not have predicted that the settlement with municipalities in Western New York for the Niagara Power Project would be 8 times larger than those affected by the St. Lawrence Power Project.

“No one is arguing that the Niagara Project isn’t bigger than the St. Lawrence-Power Project, but there was a lot less shoreline and property involved in Niagara,” Mr. Gray said. “NYPA’s project affects 35 miles of shoreline and public and private access is restricted within 90 percent of property inside the project boundary’s shoreline.”

Task Force members also claim they have benefited from the increase in electricity production after all 16 turbines were upgraded as part of the Life Extension and Modernization (LEM) Program, which aimed to increase efficiency with the installation of new turbines.

“They have seen a dramatic increase in production of electricity and their profits with the replacement of new turbines,” Mr. Gray said. “The dam generates close to $16 million in revenue each year.”

Task force members have requested the review to be on or after Oct. 15.

NYPA Spokesman Paul DeMichele said Tuesday that NYPA plans to meet with the Task Force to discuss the review, but could not comment further about the contents of the letter.

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