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NYPA review rescheduled for March

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MASSENA — The St. Lawrence Local Government Task Force and New York Power Authority representatives will hold four meetings in March to determine whether NYPA upheld its end of the 2003 Relicensing Settlement Agreement.

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

But scheduling conflicts and inclement weather have forced NYPA and the task force to delay the meetings.

Task force Chairman Joseph D. Gray said he could not comment specifically about the meetings, as both sides have agreed not to negotiate in public.

“All I can say is that we will enter into negotiations with the Power Authority in earnest starting the first week in March. I remain hopeful that some progress will be made,” Mr. Gray said Tuesday.

The St. Lawrence-FDR relicensing agreement gave the towns of Lisbon, Waddington, Louisville and Massena, their school districts and St. Lawrence County a total of $115 million. NYPA also agreed to pay $116 million for recreational and environmental improvements and to transfer property within the project boundary back to adjoining landowners. The land transfer later was deemed unconstitutional because a public entity cannot legally transfer property to private parties for less than fair market value.

According to Mr. Gray, “unanticipated events” that occurred after the relicensing — such as the closing of the General Motors plant in Massena — could be just cause for a review of the agreement’s terms.

So far the task force has had limited contact with NYPA.

“We exchanged documentation in mid-January,” Mr. Gray said. “We basically outlined where each party stood on issues in the relicensing agreement. Each side summarized, from their standpoint, where their issue stands today — whether it is resolved, outstanding or no longer applicable in the review, and reasons why.”

There is no word yet as to whether local control of proceeds from the sale of 20 megawatts of low-cost hydropower could be included in the review.

NYPA granted the St. Lawrence River Valley Redevelopment Agency the 20 megawatts in 2012 and $16 million — money granted in the relicensing agreement to the defunct St. Lawrence Aquarium and Ecological Center — to spur economic growth. The agency was granted the money and power to help correct what town and county officials have called significant inequities between the Massena dam relicensing settlement and the $973 million Niagara relicensing settlement in Western New York.

NYPA originally promised the agency it would be allowed to sell on the open market any power not allocated to help businesses and use the proceeds as it saw fit. Former Gov. David A. Paterson rejected the contract granting the power because its sale by a third party without NYPA oversight was beyond the scope of the Power Authority’s powers under the law. The sale of the power was also left out of the power contract Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo ultimately approved, and the agency has been seeking special state legislation in order to legally sell the power and use the proceeds for economic development.

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