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Local Government Task Force seeks high flow payments

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MASSENA – The St. Lawrence Local Government Task Force co-chair says municipalities within the Seaway expansion project boundary have not seen the benefits of increased electricity produced by the St. Lawrence-FDR Power Project for several years.

“There is a clause in the 2003 relicense agreement that says if a certain volume of water coming through the hydro dam generates electricity above a certain level then the local governments are owed a high flow adjustment payment,” Massena Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray said.

Mr. Gray said that the municipalities within the project boundary have only seen two high flow adjustment payments since the 2003 relicensing agreement.

The most recent high flow adjustment was recorded in 2011. Mr. Gray said the task force received the $193,256 payment for the 2011 adjustment this year.

Mr. Gray charged there are other years that the task force was owed money but didn’t receive it.

“Our attorneys have people looking at the reports that NYPA has generated and is doing its own calculations,” he said. “We believe we have proof through our own analysis.”

Mr. Gray said he could not say the exact amount that the task force is owed. “It’s something we want to bring before NYPA first,” he said.

When a high flow adjustment is recorded, the bonus is expected to be split eight ways between each public entity in the Task Force. St. Lawrence County receives 32.78 percent, the town and village of Waddington receives 12.02 percent, Louisville receives 8.96 percent, the town of Massena receives 14.2 percent, the village of Massena receives 1.10 percent, the Madrid-Waddington Central School District receives 9.28 percent, and the Massena Central School District receives 21.66 percent.

“It’s not a huge amount of money, but it is significant,” Mr. Gray said.

The fees from the latest high flow adjustment have been used to pay Wladis Law Firm, Syracuse, to represent the task force during the 10-year review of the 2003 relicensing settlement agreement.

Mr. Gray said one reason the task force hasn’t received more payments is that NYPA could be calculating its high flow rate differently.

“There are about 32 turbines in Massena, half are owned by the NYPA, the other half are owned by Ontario Hydro,” Mr. Gray said. “But the license doesn’t say that it’s only for certain turbines. It says if you go over the threshold of a certain amount of kilowatt hours the municipalities are owed a payment.”

He said NYPA could be factoring out turbines that are shut down for maintenance and replacement.

“It’s not something we should just accept and trust but don’t verify,” Mr. Gray said.

The issue is one of many to be discussed by the Local Government Task Force during its 10-year review of the relicensing agreement with NYPA.

Paul DeMichele, spokesman for NYPA, said the benefits and payments to the municipalities will be discussed during the review, but said he could not elaborate further.

“We’re expecting this to part of the discussions with the St. Lawrence Local Government Task Force, including our use of this income for Recharge New York residential discounts and economic development initiatives, as provided for under state legislation,” Mr. DeMichele said.

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