Fulfilling A Bold Dream — NYPA Marks Progress Of 50 Years Of Power Production At Niagara Power Project
$109.4 Mill. Provided in Past Three Years; Hydropower Tied to More than 31,000 Local Jobs

Connie Cullen

February 9, 2011


WHITE PLAINS — New York Power Authority (NYPA) Chairman Michael Townsend and President and Chief Executive Officer Richard M. Kessel today announced the 50th Anniversary of the February 10, 1961 ceremony marking the start of operations at the Niagara Power Project.  Led by then-NYPA Chairman Robert Moses, the event, included taped messages by several United States Presidents and a symbolic “switching on” of power by Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller, that followed by just days the achievement of first power—when electricity is first produced—by the Niagara project, which took place on January 28.

“February 10th, marks a full half-century during which the Power Authority’s Niagara Power Project has contributed mightily as an economic development engine for Western New York by providing clean, low-cost, reliable energy to many of its finest industries and communities,” said Chairman Townsend. “Yet, progress must continue as the Power Authority rededicates its efforts, in honor of this historic milestone, to the task of adding even greater value to the benefits we supply to the region.”

“The construction of the Niagara project is a testament to the dedication and leadership of such visionaries as President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Robert Moses.  It is vital to mention the hard work and sacrifice of the thousands of people who participated in the construction and those today who commit themselves to continuing the outstanding reputation of this marvelous facility.  It is in recognition of these accomplishments and the economic contributions of the Niagara project that makes it important to mark the project’s first commercial power,” Townsend added.

“As one of the New York’s most valued resources, the jobs and other benefits generated by electricity from the Niagara Power Project touch almost every home and business throughout Western New York.  In the past two years alone, NYPA has helped to create or preserve some 7,200 jobs in the region.  The focus on job creation and retention in the region continues to be one of the Power Authority’s top priorities,” said President Kessel. “Niagara’s benefits to New York are undeniable, as an engineering marvel, and indeed as a bulwark integral to supporting Western New York’s economy.”

Having received the first license to operate the Niagara Power Project in 1958, NYPA was issued a new license for 50 years on March 15, 2007.  On September 1, 2007 the new license took effect ensuring the Niagara project will continue operating for another half century with continuing environmental and recreational benefits to the region.  

Through the relicensing of the project, NYPA has provided $109.4 million in less than four years, from September 2007 to January 2011, in financial benefits through a myriad of environmental, recreation, energy and economic development projects in the local communities.  At the end of the license term, NYPA will have provided around $1 billion in financial benefits to the surrounding area.

“The Power Authority has recognized its ability to enhance the quality of life in Western New York beyond the low-cost electricity provided by the Niagara project,” said Kessel. “Over the past 50 years the Power Authority has committed itself to supporting the community by providing many educational opportunities in energy, economic development and the environment and giving back to those who give so much—our first responders and area hospitals.”

“The Niagara project’s history is full of the hard work, determination and success of so many men and women from the region.  Today’s staff continues that tradition of excellence in every aspect of project operations and community work,” said D. Patrick Curley, trustee, Board of Trustees, NYPA. “I am proud to be associated with an organization that continues to be such an asset to the area I call home.”

Niagara Power Project-How it All Began

The Power Authority’s job of redeveloping the Niagara River’s hydroelectric potential and the devastating rock slide of 1956 are intertwined. When the Niagara Mohawk’s Schoellkopf hydropower plant was destroyed in the rock slide, low-cost power to the region was suddenly in short supply.  In 1957 President Dwight D. Eisenhower opened the doors for NYPA to develop the power project by signing the Niagara Redevelopment Act, directing the Federal Power Commission (now known as FERC, the Federal Energy Regulating Commission) to issue NYPA a license to build the Niagara project.

On March 18, 1958, under the leadership of New York’s “master builder,” Robert Moses, construction began. With a team of nearly 12,000 workers dedicated to bringing the project to completion first power was achieved on January 28, 1961, ahead of the February 10 deadline. In a recorded message, President John F. Kennedy joined in the first power dedication held at the Niagara University Student Center with nearly 4,500 guests in attendance.

The project was declared in full operation on October 11, 1962. There would no longer be a short supply of low-cost power. Today, the project provides electricity at below-market rates to:

Niagara Power Project Today – Jobs, Economic Development, Environmental Stewardship

The Niagara Power Project is the largest hydroelectric facility in New York State.  It is ranked the third largest hydropower facility in the nation behind the Grand Coulee and Chief Joseph dams, both in Washington state.  The project offers a variety of socioeconomic advantages to the people and industries of Western New York including low-cost power, and its employment and spending. 

In the Western New York region, specifically Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Niagara, Orleans, and Wyoming counties, the Niagara Power Project today provides low-cost power to some 130 companies supporting about 31,000 jobs with a payroll estimated at more than $2.1 billion per year. According to studies, the project’s low-cost electricity represents estimated annual savings of more than $500 million to its customers.  These customers include the “replacement power” and “expansion power” industrial customers, most of which are located in Erie and Niagara counties. 

Project operations, including about 325 employees, have an overall economic impact in terms of purchases of goods and services, and wages of more than $80 million a year.

NYPA recognizes how important it is to protect and maintain the environment for future generations to enjoy and to expand recreational opportunities which can strengthen the regional economy.  Projects funded under the Niagara Power Project’s federal license include:

Niagara Power Project – Special 50th Anniversary Activities

Planning is underway for a series of 50th Anniversary activities highlighting the history and contributions of the Niagara Power Project.  As plans are finalized, event details will be announced.

The Niagara project today is producing more than just power; it is generating improved environment and educational opportunities, and enhancing Western New York as a place to live and work. Over the next half century the benefits of the project will be undeniable.

Niagara Power Project Fact Sheet: 
Niagara Power Project Important Dates:
Niagara Power Project Presidential Quotes First Power:


About NYPA:

■ The New York Power Authority uses no tax money or state credit. It finances its operations through the sale of bonds and revenues earned in large part through sales of electricity. ■ NYPA is a leader in promoting energy efficiency, new energy technologies and electric transportation initiatives. ■ It is the nation's largest state public power organization, with 17 generating facilities in various parts of New York State and more than 1,400 circuit-miles of transmission lines. ■ Approximately 80 percent of the electricity it produces is clean renewable hydropower.  Its lower-cost power production and electricity purchases support hundreds of thousands of jobs throughout the state. ■For more information, www.nypa.gov.


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