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NYPA public hearing on 20 megawatts draws supporters

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MASSENA - Supporters of a proposed 20-megawatt contract for low-cost hydropower outnumbered critics at a public hearing on Thursday.

If approved, the 20 megawatts from the New York Power Authority will be used to help attract new companies to the area and retain existing ones. In March, NYPA’s Board of Trustees authorized a public hearing on the proposed allocation, a necessary step for its approval.

The contract calls for NYPA to allocate 20 megawatts to the Massena Electric Department. St. Lawrence County businesses then could apply for pieces of that power. MED will make its decisions with input from the River Valley Redevelopment Agency, the St. Lawrence County Industrial Development Agency and the North Country Regional Economic Development Council.

The public hearing must take place for NYPA and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to approve the contract, NYPA spokesman Michael Saltzmann previously said. Of the 11 who showed up Thursday at Massena’s Frank S. McCullough Jr. Hawkin’s Point Visitor’s Center, five spoke.

“While we look forward to public comments ... given the support this contract has received from all stakeholders involved, we anticipate the contract, in its current form, will be presented to the trustees for final approval and then to the Governor for his consideration,” Mr. Saltzmann previously said.

Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, submitted a statement for the hearing praising the contract’s potential.

“By approving this contract between NYPA and the RVRDA, the trustees and New York state will be helping to fulfill promises made over 50 years ago that the (St. Lawrence-FDR) power project would help spur economic growth across New York state,” she said. “The approval of this contract will signal a new chapter in our regional relationship with NYPA.”

MED Board Chairman James M. Shaw said the entity was proud to have a role in administering the power.

“We are optimistic that being able to directly allocate low-cost clean hydro power to employers coupled with MED’s low cost of distribution will offer an enticing incentive to businesses moving to or expanding in St. Lawrence County,” he said.

RVRDA Chairman Robert O. McNeil also spoke of the contract’s potential benefits.

“It is my belief and the belief of many in this region that this proposed power contract will be the basis for transformative economic change in our region,” he said. “Not since the construction of the Robert Moses Power Dam in 1958 has there been an asset available to our region to bring substantial change and most importantly employment to our region ... I believe and my board believes that clean power will be the catalyst for drawing forward thinking companies to our region.”

Peter Skomsky of Massena said the hydropower should be geared toward Massena, Louisville, Waddington, and Lisbon, the communities which suffered the most when NYPA constructed the power project. It would not be right if the low cost power is allocated outside those communities and elsewhere in St. Lawrence County, he said.

“It isn’t directed where it should be,” he said.

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