Northern New York Newspapers
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Sun., Oct. 4
Serving the communities of Jefferson, St. Lawrence and Lewis counties, New York
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When it rains, it pours — hydroelectric power revenues for the city of Watertown, that is.

The city’s hydroelectric plant off Marble Street so far this year has produced about 1.4 million kilowatt hours, said Water Superintendent Michael J. Sligar.

If the rain keeps up, it would be on pace to produce as much as 3.2 million kilowatt hours and a record for the month of June, he said.

“The rain has been good for us, but it may not be good for farmers,” Mr. Sligar said.

With 11 days remaining this month, hydroelectric power has already reached 44 percent above the normal amount for June, Mr. Sligar said Thursday.

So far this month, the city’s three hydroelectric machines have been running nearly non-stop. One machine has operated every day in June, another for 18 of 19 days and the third has operated 13 of the first 19 days, Mr. Sligar said.

But they will not run at optimum level if it rains too much. The optimum level is 6,000 cubic feet per second, and that’s about where it has been, he said.

If there’s too much water in the Black River, it has “an adverse effect” on the hydroelectric plant.

“It was a nice spring — no surges,” he said, adding that it has rained for two or three consecutive days this month and that has been helpful.

After using the energy from the hydroelectric plant for city buildings, the city sells its excess power to National Grid for 17.59 cents per kilowatt hour.

Despite the “excellent” month, though, the city still is not out of the woods from last summer’s drought, when not a single kilowatt hour was produced for three months, Mr. Sligar said.

So the wet month has generated some much-needed revenues for the city’s coffers, said City Comptroller James E. Mills.

And if the rainy trend continues, it could yield a net revenue of $526,652 for the general fund, but that would still not be enough to offset last summer’s losses, Mr. Mills said.

Blaming last year’s drought, the city remains $612,145 under budget in projected hydroelectric revenues through the end of May, he said. Even with a record June, the city would still have a $330,530 shortfall.

The city is in the middle of a franchise agreement to sell electricity to National Grid that began in 1991 and expires in 2029, when the company will pay the city 34.7 cents per kwh. The arrangement to sell the city’s excess power to National Grid came about after the city decided against going into municipal power.

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