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River agency has draft contract, work is needed

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The St. Lawrence River Valley Redevelopment Agency has received a preliminary draft contract granting it 20 megawatts of hydropower for economic development from the New York Power Authority, but details on its contents are scarce.

River Agency Chairman Robert O. McNeil said the document is “a work in progress” by agency attorney Eric J. Gustafson. He said it contains several edits and notes that still warrant discussion from the River Agency, the New York Power Authority and the governor’s office.

Mr. McNeil said he is unsure whether changes in the contract were proposed by Mr. Gustafson or NYPA attorneys at this point, but the main issue surrounding the delay in getting it set in stone is a lack of final approval from the Power Authority.

“This is the problem Governor Paterson had with the contract, and it’s something I feel was there all along. I think what they want is to make sure NYPA has a final say on who gets the power,” he said.

Gov. David A. Paterson’s office in December had rejected the contract for, among other reasons, a lack of NYPA oversight on which businesses receive low-cost power allocations. The last contract had allowed the River Agency to give power to businesses as it saw fit.

Mr. McNeil said he thought the approval would be more of a formality, as NYPA wants to see the power allocated for economic development as well. The original contract does not require a vote of approval from the authority, but it does require the agency to ask NYPA to release the power for specific projects.

“So, I think this is something we already had. I just see us making it more clear in the new contract. I could be wrong, but this is the only real change I see coming out of this,” he said.

Because the draft document is still under negotiation, Mr. McNeil said, it is a confidential document.

“I think what we have is a working document that came from Eric’s discussion with the Power Authority. We formed a committee to sit down and figure out the details. When that is done, it will be presented to the public and we will have a hearing on it,” he said.

Mr. Gustafson could not be reached for comment.

Mr. McNeil said no meeting among the River Agency, NYPA and the governor’s office has been scheduled.

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