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River Agency revisits megawatts legislation

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LOUISVILLE — It was back to the drawing board Tuesday as members of the St. Lawrence River Redevelopment Agency debated reintroducing legislation in Albany that would legalize the use of proceeds from the sale of 20 megawatts of hydropower for the purpose of economic development.

State Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, attended the agency’s meeting Tuesday to tell board members of her intent to reintroduce a monetization bill in the 2014-15 budget.

“To be honest, we aren’t quite sure where the disconnect was,” Mrs. Ritchie said. The original bill was excluded from the 2013-14 budget earlier this year.

Mrs. Ritchie asked board members to “have a conversation” about how they would like to proceed before the Senate reconvenes in January.

“I am committed to putting forth whatever you decide, whether you want to stick with the original language, proceed where we were at the end of the session or if you want to regroup and take a different route,” Mrs. Ritchie said.

She said the bill will not make it into the final budget if the Assembly is not on board.

“If we don’t do this together, we’re going to be sitting in the same place next year,” Mrs. Ritchie said.

River Agency Chairman Robert O. McNeil said he will reach out to Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa, and state Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, to ensure the bill has support from both legislative bodies.

But Mr. McNeil said he would like to discuss several issues with the St. Lawrence Local Government Task Force before the River Agency takes a second look at the proposed legislation.

The St. Lawrence Local Government Task Force formed the River Agency in 2010 to manage the $16 million and 20 megawatts of power awarded by the New York Power Authority in the St. Lawrence-FDR Power Project relicensing agreement.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is stipulating that he will not accept a bill without first establishing a separate economic development council that would allocate the proceeds from the sale of the power in place of the River Agency, Mr. McNeil said.

“If we are going to change something, we should really go back to the Task Force and talk to them about it,” Mr. McNeil said. “We should set up a meeting so we can discuss this.”

Mr. McNeil acknowledged the frustration of community members over the lack of monetization legislation for the past three years.

“We deserve better,” Mr. McNeil said. “That is the general feeling. This is what we agreed to with NYPA and the state. When you talk to people about what Niagara got versus what we got, coupled with the fact that we have had hard times in St. Lawrence County, there is a general feeling of frustration.”

“The people around here deserve the money and the power they were promised,” board member Thomas J. Carroll Jr. said.

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