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NY Power Authority Creates New Habitat to Protect Fish in Niagara River

Jill Murman Payne

Photo & Caption

October 30, 2008 


LEWISTON—The New York Power Authority (NYPA) today announced that construction work has been completed on the first installation of underwater structures as part of a pilot program to create artificial reefs to enhance the aquatic environment of the Upper Niagara River.  

The Power Authority agreed to construct at least eight different Habitat Improvement Projects (HIPs) benefiting fish and other wildlife as part of the new 50-year license issued by federal regulators for NYPA’s Niagara Power Project last year. 

The “fish attraction structures” placed at four sites in the Upper Niagara River this month will provide cover for a variety of species, including muskellunge, northern pike, walleye and large- and small-mouth bass. By creating more places for fish to safely rest and forage, the Power Authority’s efforts will encourage their populations, which will also improve fishing opportunities for local anglers. 

“The Power Authority is committed to implementing its new Niagara project license through wildlife projects and a variety of other wide-ranging benefits created with community input to improve the region’s economy and environment,” said Richard M. Kessel, NYPA president and chief executive officer. “The Niagara River is an important recreational resource for Western New York, and NYPA’s involvement, as shown by this work, to enhance fish habitats, helps ensure future generations will enjoy the river’s beauty and vitality.” 

An Ecological Standing Committee, composed of local groups and governmental agencies, helped NYPA identify and prioritize HIP opportunities along the Niagara River. The Power Authority is also working with area sporting organizations, such as the Niagara Musky Association, whose members regularly fish the river and have volunteered to help monitor the new underwater HIPs.

Marine contractor Herbert F. Darling, of Buffalo, was awarded a $118,000 contract to build the four underwater structures, each of a different design, using rocks, logs and boulders. All four of the artificial reef sites are located between the Grand Island and Tonawanda shorelines, and will be monitored through the use of underwater cameras, with modifications made as necessary.  

Earlier this year, the Power Authority used divers and underwater cameras to survey possible locations for the structures. Because the Niagara River is so fast-moving, its bottom has little natural cover to shelter aquatic life. This lack of cover is partly due to dredging performed to aid commercial navigation. In selecting the four sites for this HIP, NYPA considered only those areas that were within U.S. waters and outside commercial shipping channels.  

To avoid any navigation hazards to recreational boaters, NYPA chose areas where water depth was sufficiently deep, allowing at least eight to ten feet of clearance between the top of each artificial reef and the river’s surface during low-water levels. 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers granted authorization for this project in September; the HIP has also been approved by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Work on additional habitat projects will continue in the coming months and years as part of NYPA’s relicensing commitments. 

A 50-year license for the Niagara Power Project, issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, took effect on Sept. 1, 2007. Provisions of the license and a comprehensive settlement agreement include a range of benefits for Western New York, including environmental improvements, recreational enhancements, new power allocations from the Niagara project, funding to support the Niagara River Greenway, a college scholarship program for Tuscarora students, and other annual and one-time payments serving local communities. 

NYPA’s 2,441,000-kilowatt Niagara project, which began operation in 1961, is the state’s largest generator, producing clean, low-cost hydropower that is linked to more than 40,000 jobs in Western New York.

  About NYPA:

■    NYPA 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-owned electric utility, with 18 generating facilities in various parts of the state and more than 1,400 circuit-miles of transmission lines.

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