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Tue., Oct. 6
Serving the communities of Massena and Potsdam, New York

Town, village leaders retain law firm to review NYPA agreement


MASSENA - Town and village leaders will have legal assistance as they review the New York Power Authority’s 2003 relicensing agreement at its 10th anniversary.

The Local Government Task Force voted unanimously Wednesday night to appoint the Duncan, Weinberg, Genzer & Pembroke law firm of Washington, D.C. at a rate of $240 per hour, for a maximum of $3,500. The task force will pay for the firm through approximately $30,000 left over from the 2003 agreement held in the St. Lawrence County Treasurer’s Office.

Task force members have been discussing for the last several months the 10th anniversary of the 2003 Federal Energy Regulatory Commission agreement, which enables NYPA to run the St. Lawrence-FDR Power Project for another 50 years. The 2003 agreement provided benefits to the host communities surrounding the power project.

Within the agreement was a provision: NYPA and the host communities every decade could review and “discuss issues not anticipated” in 2003.

Massena Town Supervisor and Task Force Chairman Joseph D. Gray said the law firm will review the existing terms of the agreement.

“They would be willing to do an initial review of the license as it stands, circumstances as they stand, and any issues we might have,” he said.

The law firm will also determine if NYPA has been fully compliant with terms of the 2003 agreement, Mr. Gray said.

“Have things been done as they should have been done to this date?” he asked.

The law firm will also advise officials on potentially negotiating new benefits for the region at the 10-year mark.

“That’s why we need to have the law firm look into it,” Louisville Town Supervisor Larry R. Legault said.

“Are there other areas that weren’t addressed (in 2003) that would be appropriate?” Mr. Gray asked.

Massena Mayor James F. Hidy said the law firm’s previous experience with NYPA-related issues made it a good choice. The firm was involved in some stages of the 2003 agreement. Other firms would cost more because they would have to get up to speed on the issues, he said.

“They’re in tune with what’s already going on,” Mr. Hidy said.

Wednesday night’s selection may not be the only law firm task force members use. Massena Central School Board member Kevin Perretta said the group should look into retaining whichever law firm helped Western New York leaders negotiate the Niagara Power Project’s relicensing agreement several years ago.

“That’s not something I think you should drop,” he said.

Mr. Gray said many are often quick to criticize NYPA, but pointed out some benefits the agency continues to provide the area.

On Tuesday, NYPA’s Board of Trustees approved a $3.3 million contract to J.E. Sheehan Contracting Corp. of Potsdam. The money will fund the construction of dikes and water control structures that will create the Nichols Hill Island Habitat Improvement Project (HIP), located at the western end of the Wilson Hill Wildlife Management area in Louisville.

The Nichols Hill project, one of 10 included in the 2003 agreement, will stabilize water levels and protect a variety of warm water fish and other wetland species, NYPA officials said in a Wednesday press release. The project will be completed in 2013.

“It’s not chump change,” Mr. Gray said. “It’s a lot of money.”

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