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Waddington says NYPA should share more benefits

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WADDINGTON – The town is sending a message to the New York Power Authority: contribute more to communities along the St. Lawrence and less to the state.

The Town Council unanimously passed a resolution on March 11 declaring that the New York Power Authority redirect its profits to host communities which are still feeling the affects of the flooding caused by the construction of the St. Lawrence-FDR power dam in Massena 60 years after it was built.

According to its financial statements, NYPA has seen a dramatic increase in revenue generated by the St. Lawrence-FDR dam over the last few years — by as much as $45 million in 2011.

Town Supervisor Mark Scott said Waddington and other communities impacted by the dam are not seeing the benefits of those increases.

“The St. Lawrence Power Project is responsible for a large increase in unanticipated revenues for the New York Power Authority,” Mr. Scott said. “All the while they have cut the workforce at the local plant and budgets to local communities while they are making record profits. That’s wrong.”

As in years past, NYPA is set to voluntarily contribute $65 million to the state’s general fund this year. Since the 50-year license to operate the St. Lawrence-FDR Power Project was renewed in 2003, NYPA has made voluntary payments in excess of $1.2 billion to the state.

NYPA spokeswoman Connie M. Cullen acknowledged Friday that the agency will voluntarily transfer $65 million to the state this year, but declined to comment further when asked whether more money should be redirected to the host communities.

Since relicensing, NYPA has committed approximately $7 million to recreational facilities in Lisbon, Waddington, Louisville and Massena with over $650,000 paid annually to maintain parks, according to archived reports.

Over $12 million has been given to Robert Moses and Coles Creek state parks, and approximately $49 million in fishing, habitat and environmental improvement projects in St. Lawrence County.

NYPA has also provided $16 million and 20 megawatts of low-cost power to the St. Lawrence River Valley Redevelopment Agency — representing the towns of Lisbon, Waddington, Louisville and Massena and St. Lawrence County — to spur economic growth.

In addition, $2 million was dedicated to a community enhancement fund annually over a 10-year period.

As part of the 2003 relicensing agreement, NYPA removed 600 acres of land from the power project boundary that was returned to townships to be sold to private landowners or redeveloped for other uses.

But Mr. Scott says that is not enough.

“What they do give us is miniscule compared to what they should be paying,” Mr. Scott said. “We need these benefits and we are tired of our benefits leaving the area. It’s time for it to stop.”

Town Councilman Robert Dalton said with the “dire economic climate in the area,” he would like to see more of NYPA’s proceeds used to provide economic relief to communities.

“We need some other way of surviving other than taxing our land owners and we need to support more of our businesses,” Mr. Dalton said.

“NYPA puts that land back in the town, but there isn’t enough money to invest in it,” he said. “In some cases, people can’t afford prime real estate there isn’t money enough to purchase the land and put it back on the tax roll.”

Mr. Scott agreed, saying the entire shoreline from Massena to Waddington is owned by NYPA, which makes it difficult to develop and tax.

“That vast amount of land and improvements continues to be exempt from property taxes,” he said. “We know New York state does pay property taxes in properties they hold in other municipalities, but for 60 years they have paid no tax to our local municipalities.”

Council members said they will send the resolution to the Power Authority in the next week.

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