NYPA Files Application for A New License For the
Niagara Project Reflecting Participation of Area Communities
August 18, 2005
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
LEWISTON—The New York Power Authority (NYPA) Thursday
submitted an Application for a New License to the Federal Energy
Regulatory Commission (FERC) for its Niagara Power Project, a
2,400,000-kilowatt project whose low-cost hydropower is a mainstay of
the Western New York economy and serves as the Empire State’s single
largest source of emission-free, renewable power. The application
reflects substantial input of various interested parties in the region,
provided through a multiyear public process.
The filing with FERC, for a new 50-year operating
license, also included an Applicant-Prepared Environmental Assessment of
the project, whose current license expires in August 2007. Both the
license application and the environmental assessment reflect comments by
the interested parties, or stakeholders, who have partnered with NYPA in
an alternative licensing approach that differs from the traditional one
where the stakeholder’s role during the pre-application phase is
On Friday, the Power Authority will also submit to FERC
relicensing settlement agreements with federal and state resource
agencies and environmental organizations, area municipalities, the
Tuscarora Nation, customers and other stakeholders. Those agreements,
finalized over the last month, stem from the Alternative Licensing
Process that began at the end of 2002, after FERC approved NYPA’s
request to proceed in that direction to reduce or eliminate unresolved
issues and to obtain stakeholder support of the new license.
“The submittal of the license application and
supporting documents is a major milestone in our cooperative efforts
with numerous parties to assure the Niagara Project’s continued,
effective operations, as well as enhance the Niagara River and its
surrounding communities,” said Eugene W. Zeltmann, NYPA president and
chief executive officer. “We take very seriously our stewardship of this
vital project, which produces low-cost power directly linked to more
than 43,000 jobs at over 100 Western New York businesses. We also
recognize the importance of assisting the communities that host the
Zeltmann noted that the settlement agreements allow
the Power Authority to meet its federal regulatory obligations, while
providing additional benefits to the various stakeholders.
“The alternative licensing process permitted early
community involvement in identifying environmental, socioeconomic,
cultural and land management issues for further study, and provided us
with significant influence in the development of the license application
and other documents,” said Sen. George D. Maziarz. “This has been a real
team effort, with careful attention to detail and appreciation for the
importance of negotiation and compromise.”
“Anyone involved with this process couldn’t help but
come away from it with a keener appreciation of the Niagara Project’s
significance to Western New York, particularly for creating and
protecting jobs,” said Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte. “NYPA’s
inclusive approach provided our communities with an integral say in the
project’s future, and negotiated settlement agreements that balance the
diverse interests concerning its operation.”
“The various settlement agreements between the Power
Authority and regional stakeholders provide numerous benefits for
Western New York without compromising the rates manufacturers pay for
low-cost hydropower,” said James Rouse, co-chairman, Power for Economic
Prosperity (PEP), a coalition representing 24 regional manufacturing
companies. “The Niagara Power Project helps to protect tens of thousands
of family-sustaining jobs in Western New York, so the progress toward
relicensing of the project is good news.”
One of the settlement agreements addresses new license
terms and conditions for ecological, recreation and water quality
resources, with the parties to the accord including the U.S. Department
of the Interior, through its component bureaus, the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), and the National
Park Service (NPS); also, the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation
and Historic Preservation (OPRHP); the New York State Department of
Environmental Conservation (DEC); New York Rivers United; Friends of the
Buffalo-Niagara River; the Niagara Relicensing Environmental Coalition;
the Niagara Falls Water Board; the New York Association of Public Power;
the New York State Rural Electric Cooperative Association; and the
Municipal Electric Utility Association.
“The extensive studies supporting the Power Authority’s
license applications, as well as the comprehensive settlement agreement,
demonstrate a thorough review of the environmental resources associated
with the Niagara Project,” said DEC Acting Commissioner Denise M.
Sheehan. “Beneficial environmental enhancements to such resources in the
Niagara River basin, provided under the settlement agreement, are
examples of the high degree of cooperation resulting from state agency
and stakeholder participation in the critical stages of the Power
Authority’s licensing effort.”
“The protection of the aquatic ecosystems of the
Niagara River is an integral part of this well-considered relicensing
agreement,” said Julie Barrett O’Neil, executive director, Friends of
Buffalo Niagara River (FBNR), the organizer of the Niagara Relicensing
Environmental Coalition. “It will help restore and protect wetlands,
forest and shrub habitats and improve public access to the river.”
The relicensing agreement with DEC, FBNR and other
regulatory agencies and environmental organizations provides for the
Power Authority’s creation of a $12-million fund for construction of
eight habitat improvement projects (HIPs) at designated areas outside
the Niagara Project’s boundaries, within the Niagara River basin. The
HIPs will help protect fish and wildlife along the river corridor.
Among the other NYPA license commitments under the
multiparty settlement agreement with resource agencies and others:
—One million dollars annually for additional habitat
improvement projects in the Niagara River basin, to be identified by an
Ecological Standing Committee consisting of representatives of NYPA,
DEC, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, the Seneca Nation of Indians, the Tuscarora
Nation, Tonawanda Seneca Nation, N.Y. Rivers United, and the Niagara
Relicensing Environmental Coalition.
—Capital improvements to enhance public access to the
river in the area of the project, including additional parking for
anglers and others.
—Improvements to recreational facilities operated by
OPRHP on lands within or in the vicinity of the Niagara Project
boundary, supported by a nearly $9.3 million fund NYPA established for
—A $19 million fund to address the project’s impact on
groundwater flow. The fund will be administered by the Niagara Falls
Water Board and provide for enhancements to the city’s Falls Street
Tunnel, as well as any future repairs or maintenance related to the
NYPA entered into a separate settlement agreement with
the Niagara Power Coalition to establish a Host Community Fund for
capital projects and infrastructure, and for economic development and
public health and safety. Some $5 million will be provided annually to
the communities for the term of the new license.
The Host Community Agreement, which addresses
non-licensing matters outside FERC jurisdiction, also includes 25
megawatts of Niagara power for the Niagara Power Coalition communities.
And it provides for a Host Community Greenway Fund, with annual NYPA
payments of $3 million for recreational facilities and other measures to
enhance tourism in Niagara County.
“I fully expect this fair and equitable settlement
agreement will support the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s
favorable consideration of the Power Authority’s license application,”
said William Ross, chairman, Niagara Power Coalition and chairman of the
Niagara County Legislature. “Our organization has worked extremely hard,
along with others in Niagara County, at representing the public interest
in this process, and we’re gratified that the relicensing is now
entering the critical, final phase of federal review.”
The Niagara Power Coalition consists of the seven
municipal entities encompassing the Niagara Project’s boundaries: the
City of Niagara Falls, Niagara County, the Towns of Lewiston and
Niagara, and the school districts of Lewiston-Porter, Niagara-Wheatfield
and the City of Niagara Falls.
Beyond the Host Community Agreement, NYPA has committed
to establish two additional Greenway funds, for $4 million annually, for
ecological projects along the Niagara River basin, and construction and
enhancement of area state parks, recreation and related facilities.
Another non-licensing agreement will provide the
Tuscarora Nation with a fund for $1 million a year over the duration of
the new license. NYPA has also agreed to allocate up to one megawatt of
low-cost Niagara power to the Tuscarora, identify opportunities for
energy efficiency projects, and enhance Tuscarora cultural programs.
“This agreement will allow us to work together with
NYPA to ensure that the relicensing of the Niagara Project proceeds in a
manner that protects future generations of the Tuscarora People and the
health and well-being of Mother Earth,” said Tuscarora Chief Leo R.
The Niagara Project, which produced its first
commercial power in 1961, is New York State’s largest single source of
electricity. It provides some of the lowest cost electricity in the
state, along with another NYPA hydroelectric project, on the St.
Lawrence River in Massena.
In late 2003, FERC issued the St. Lawrence-Franklin D.
Roosevelt Project a new, 50-year license, following a cooperative
consultation process similar to the approach the Power Authority has
taken for the Niagara Project.