N.Y. Power Authority And Leading Area Officials Mark Formal Opening of Hawkins Point Visitors Center

Michael Saltzman                        
(914) 390-8181

July 26, 2005


HAWKINS POINT—A brand new visitors center for what may well be Northern New York’s most important power plant, the St. Lawrence-Franklin D. Roosevelt Power Project, was dedicated Tuesday at a formal grand opening for the much anticipated facility and its new location at Hawkins Point.

“Today marks a new era for our St. Lawrence-FDR Visitors Center, which has long been a key tourist attraction for Northern New York, highlighting the exceptional importance of hydropower to this part of New York State,” said Joseph J. Seymour, New York Power Authority (NYPA) chairman. “The panoramic view of the international power dam across the St. Lawrence River underscores the Herculean efforts of those that came before us in harnessing one of North America’s mightiest waterways for clean, low-cost electricity that is absolutely essential to this region, and its automotive and aluminum industries, in particular.”

Seymour, who was elected NYPA chairman by the Power Authority board immediately before the event, spoke at the ceremonial ribbon cutting for the new, $5 million facility. It replaces the original visitors center that had been located atop NYPA’s portion of the U.S.-Canadian power dam where the generating equipment for the St. Lawrence-FDR project is located. The Power Authority closed the center to the general public in 2002 for security reasons following the September 11 attacks.

“Hawkins Point is an idyllic setting for the educational and interactive exhibits on energy and the history of this area that have long been synonymous with the Power Authority’s visitors center,” said Sen. James W. Wright, who chairs the Senate Committee on Energy and Telecommunications. “I know that Northern New Yorkers are going to enjoy this new facility, and that it will serve as a magnet for tourists, just as the previous visitors center had been during its many years of operation.”

The original facility hosted more than five million visitors from the time it opened in 1959, shortly after the St. Lawrence-FDR project produced first commercial power.

“The visitors center has always done a tremendous job in explaining how the energy of falling water is converted into electricity by the St. Lawrence-FDR project’s turbine-generators and sent over transmission and distribution lines to local industries and homes,” said Sen. Raymond A. Meier. “In a sense, it’s the public face of this indispensable generating project, which is integral to our economy in Northern New York.”

The electricity produced at St. Lawrence-FDR, along with the output of the Power Authority’s Niagara Power Project near Niagara Falls, is the lowest cost in the state, and among the least expensive in the country.

“The new visitors center really impresses upon people the absolute importance of the St. Lawrence-FDR Project to Northern New York,” said Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava. “It’s an integral part of our economy, and the Hawkins Point Visitors Center underscores this, while contributing to our area’s tourism.”

“I’d encourage everyone to drop by the new visitors center when they get a chance,” said Assemblyman Darrell Aubertine. “It reflects important facets of this region’s history and economy, and tells the story in an interesting and entertaining way.”

“Today marks the start of a new chapter in the history of the St. Lawrence-FDR Project—and in the Power Authority’s commitment to Northern New York,” said Eugene W. Zeltmann, NYPA president and chief executive officer. “The new visitors center here at Hawkins Point promises to become a mecca not only for local residents, but for tourists from far beyond the region.”

The previous visitors center underwent a major renovation in 2000 that included 40 new exhibits that are now part of the new two-story building at Hawkins Point, in the Town of Massena. Many of the exhibits are interactive and are especially suited for youngsters.

A focal point of the new 14,000-square-foot building is a new three-dimensional terrain map in the entrance lobby. It features lighting effects highlighting locations from Ogdensburg to Massena, described by an audio track activated by the push of a button. The map is a replica of one at the project.

“The hands-on quality of the various exhibits, and their use of computer technologies, provides both an educational and entertaining experience, especially for young people,” said Sandy Cook, Town of Massena supervisor. “In short, this is a fun place to visit, and we’re delighted that the visitors center is once again open for business, at this new, beautiful location.”

“The opening of the new visitors center is reason for all of us in this community to be proud,” said Ken MacDonnell, Village of Massena mayor. “The Power Authority has done an exceptional job in relocating the facility to a site that offers splendid amenities, not the least of which is the fantastic vista of the power dam across the river. The location is further enhanced by the abundance of wildlife in the immediate vicinity, where sightings of wild turkey, deer and other wildlife will be a common occurrence for visitors to the center.”

Local boaters and anglers will also be able to use an improved boat ramp and a new handicapped-accessible fishing pier that the Power Authority built adjacent to the new visitors center.

The St. Lawrence-FDR project is NYPA’s first generating project, constructed in the 1950s as a result of a cooperative effort between the United States and Canada for the Robert Moses-Robert H. Saunders Power Dam, which extends across the international boundary, from Barnhart Island, N.Y., to Cornwall, Ontario. There are 16 turbine-generators on each side of the border, providing a net dependable capability of 800,000 kilowatts in each country.

In 2003, NYPA received a new 50-year, federal license for St. Lawrence-FDR based on a historic agreement with local communities and various other groups.

The visitors center is one of three that the Power Authority operates at its hydroelectric projects. The others are at the Niagara Project and the Blenheim-Gilboa Pumped Storage Project in the northern Catskills.