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Task Force meets with NYPA today to discuss relicensing review

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St. Lawrence Local Government Task Force members will meet with the New York Power Authority today to discuss in the St. Lawrence-Franklin D. Roosevelt Power Project’s 2003 relicensing settlement agreement.

The task force hopes the meeting will be the first of many with the Power Authority which will ultimately result in a new settlement deal.

Shortly after the 2003 settlement was reached, NYPA forged a $973 million relicensing settlement with Western New York Communities to continue operating the Niagara project. The St. Lawrence-FDR agreement gave the towns of Lisbon, Waddington, Louisville and Massena, their school districts and St. Lawrence County $115 million. NYPA also agreed to pay $116 million for recreational and environmental improvements, and to transfer property within the project boundary back to adjoining landowners. The land transfer later was deemed unconstitutional because a public entity cannot legally transfer property to private parties for less than fair market value.

Town and county officials have long said the north country was shortchanged, a complaint that ultimately resulted in the creation of the St. Lawrence River Valley Redevelopment Agency to administer $16 million — money left over from the failed St. Lawrence Aquarium project — and 20 megawatts of low-cost power from NYPA for economic development.

“The first meeting will be about knowing where everyone is coming from and where the Task Force stands on some of the issues,” Task Force Chairman and Massena Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray said Wednesday.

The closed meeting will include a few members from the task force and two or three representatives from NYPA.

Mr. Gray said the meeting could result in an immediate response or be an “icebreaker” for future meetings.

“We’ll know more after the meeting,” he said.

Every 10 years after the relicensing, NYPA is required to review the terms of the agreement with the task force.

According to the agreement, “unanticipated events” that occurred after the relicensing could be just cause for a review of the agreement’s terms. And that’s what Mr. Gray is counting on.

Mr. Gray has said that in addition to inequities between the St. Lawrence and Niagara settlements, several economic factors, including the closure of the General Motors plant in 2008, call for a new deal.

Task Force members also claim NYPA has benefited from an increase in electricity production at the St. Lawrence-FDR dam after all 16 turbines were upgraded as part of the Life Extension and Modernization Program.

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