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Massena officials want low-cost power kept in 40-mile radius

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MASSENA - Village and town officials have passed a resolution calling for low-cost preservation power for economic development to stay within a 40-mile radius of the St .Lawrence-FDR Power Project.

A separate resolution passed by the village board this week opposes the New York Power Authority’s continued voluntary payments to the state, money village officials say should be redirected to host communities including the village of Massena rather than the state’s general fund.

“We feel it’s monies that are being made and produced through host communities,” Mayor James F. Hidy told trustees.

In their resolution regarding power allocation legislation, they encourage members of the state Assembly, Senate and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo “to adopt the Northern New York Power Proceeds Allocation legislation necessary to enable the monetized proceeds of unallocated low cost Preservation Power for economic development purposes within a 40-mile radius of the St. Lawrence-FDR Power Project, and that Sen. (Joseph) Griffo and Assemblyperson (Addie) Russell pursue this legislation on behalf of the Village of Massena.”

“It has been adopted by the Senate and is now in the Assembly,” Mr. Hidy said.

The Massena Town Council passed the same resolution Wednesday night, saying they felt the 40-mile radius was necessary to ensure low-cost hydropower was used to benefit communities negatively impacted by the presence of NYPA.

Without passage by state officials, power produced locally could stretch out beyond the suggested 40-mile radius, Mr. Hidy said Tuesday, including into Jefferson County.

“I don’t know why they’re even being considered in this. They’re looking at $1.4 billion in growth in their area,” he said.

“I agree with you. It should be for those impacted by the project. I don’t believe Jefferson County has a claim to that. Forty miles is fair. It doesn’t need any more than that,” Trustee Patricia K. Wilson said.

Town Councilman Albert Nicola pointed out Wednesday that a 30-mile limit would exclude the town of Lisbon from power benefits even though it was included in the power project’s boundaries. Town Attorney Eric Gustafson said that for this reason the limit was extended to 40 miles, which is measured from the hydrodam itself. Mr. Gustafson said he believes the 40-mile limit is “very similar” to the 30-mile deal reached for western New York communities impacted by the hydrodam in Niagara Falls.

According to Supervisor Joseph D. Gray, there are 12 megawatts of preservation power, of which 10.3 megawatts are allocated to area businesses. He said without passage of this legislation, it may be possible all 12 megawatts could be allocated to businesses in communities outside the area negatively impacted by the hydrodam.

Mr. Gustafson was not able to put a value on the hydropower, citing the fluctuating cost of electricity. Others in the industry have estimated the value in the $150,000 per megawatt per year range.

Mr. Hidy said keeping the funding within a 40-mile radius would help local schools, hospitals and property tax values.

“It’s monies that were made in Massena,” he said, noting the shoreline from Massena to Ogdensburg could not be developed because of the power project.

Trustees approved the resolution with Trustee Timothy J. Ahlfeld abstaining because of his employment with NYPA and Albert C. “Herb” Deshaies abstaining because of a concern that the move could impact what they were currently receiving as part of the relicensing agreement.

Trustees also approved a resolution that calls for money NYPA is paying to the state to be redirected to host communities, with Mr. Ahlfeld abstaining from the vote.

“The Power Authority is giving $65 million voluntarily to the state’s general fund,” Mr. Hidy said.

He suggested that money should instead be kept in this area.

“We get $2 million to spread over seven communities,” he said. “We’ve already contributed over $1 billion to the state’s general fund since the relicensing, and we get $2 million for 10 years. The disparity is unbelievable.”

According to the resolution, which cites NYPA’s financial statements, the Power Authority has made voluntary payments of more than $1.2 billion to the state in the past decade since the license to operate the St. Lawrence-FDR Power Project was renewed and continues to voluntarily contribute $65 million a year to the state’s general fund.

Meanwhile, host communities such as the village of Massena are “still adversely affected by the construction of the power project while the majority of the benefits are distributed outside the region most impacted,” the resolution reads, noting that trustees are opposed to any additional payments by NYPA to the state “and strongly urges NYPA to redirect benefits to the host communities, including the village of Massena, which have sacrificed the past 60 years while NYPA has been exporting much needed local revenue.”

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