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Local Government Task Force calls NYPA back to the negotiating table

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The St. Lawrence Local Government Task Force served a second “notice of dispute” to the New York Power Authority Thursday in an attempt to bring NYPA back to the negotiating table to discuss additional benefits for host communities as part of the relicensing of the St. Lawrence-FDR hydropower dam.

Negotiations between the New York Power Authority and a task force of St. Lawrence county officials broke down in June after a dispute over additional benefits that local leaders are demanding as part of the agreement settled in 2003.

St. Lawrence Task Force members are calling for the reopening of the 2003 relicensing settlement agreement after NYPA allegedly failed to comply with the recreational and shoreline stabilization requirements of the license NYPA received from the Federal Regulatory Commission (FERC) in October 2003.

NYPA allegedly “failed to engage in good-faith negotiations as required by law, refused to make payments to the Task Force that is obligated to make under the terms of the 2002 agreement and failed to complete the transfer to the host communities and local landowners lands removed from the project boundary,” the notice said.

“It is troubling that after 12 years NYPA has not yet returned to the tax rolls lands that are no longer needed by the project and were promised to be returned over 11 years ago,” said St. Lawrence County Legislative Chairman Johnathan S. Putney, D-Waddington, in a news release Friday.

Task force members say that the notice will ensure FERC is aware that discussions are ongoing in the event that the organization needs to intervene.

“It’s FERC’s responsibility to make sure that the provisions of the license are being followed, and they are not being followed,” Task Force Chairman Joseph D. Gray said Friday. “FERC has their own criteria that they look at to decide what is pertinent to the relicense and if there is a dispute, we just want to make sure they are aware of it.”

In response to the task force’s release, NYPA released a statement that it is “in full compliance with the provisions of its St. Lawrence-FDR Power Project’s federal operating license and we have the utmost confidence that this is well-demonstrated by the facts. The claims in the task force’s notices of dispute are false and completely without merit.”

Task Force members say that St. Lawrence County communities have not received a fair deal from NYPA.

“We are in desperate need of economic development funding similar to what NYPA provides in Western New York,” Town of Louisville Supervisor Larry Legault said in a news release Friday. “I remain confident that the Task Force and NYPA will be able to reach an accord after additional had work by both sides, but these notices serve to formalize the issues and trigger a process that we hope will not be needed, but cannot be delayed.”

Talks between NYPA and the task force are expected to resume at a meeting tentatively planned for Aug. 1

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