Niagara Power Project Relicensing

Over the course of the 50 year license in support of its operating license for the Niagara Power Project, the New York Power Authority (NYPA) will provide more than $1 billion worth of benefits to Western New York. These benefits include monetary payments to settlement partners consisting of local municipalities, state agencies, an Indian nation, school districts, and committees supporting the development of the Niagara River Greenway. The amount also includes payments by NYPA for the construction of recreational projects and ecological enhancements related to the License. In addition to monetary benefits, 32 MW of low-cost hydropower has been allocated to several settlement partners saving the recipients as much as 75% of the cost of energy.

Scroll this webpage for information and updates on the many activities that NYPA is implementing in Western New York as a result of this new license. 

Greenway Standing Committees:

The Greenway Ecological Standing Committee (GESC) is funded since the issuance of the new FERC license via an annual NYPA contribution to a Greenway Ecological Fund of $1 million until 2057 (i.e., until the end of the new license). It is responsible for the review of ecological projects that are proposed by stakeholders for funding through the Greenway Ecological Fund (GEF), with two submittal and review cycles each year. In order to be considered for GEF funding, all projects must receive a determination of “consistency” with the Niagara River Greenway Plan from the Niagara River Greenway Commission (i.e., Commission review for consistency occurs prior to submittal to the Greenway Ecological Standing Committee.

Current Greenway Ecological Standing Committee Documents and Info:

View: Documents prior to 2020

Please visit the Niagara River Greenway Commission website to find more information about funded projects

Niagara Relicensing Ecological Standing Committee:

The Niagara Relicensing Ecological Standing Committee (ESC) is independent of the Greenway. The ESC’s responsibilities are twofold:  1)  to review the implementation and ongoing status of the eight defined Habitat Improvement Projects (HIPs) that were established as NYPA implementation obligations with the NIA relicensing and 2) review applications for new ecological projects as submitted by applicants for funding of such projects through the Habitat Enhancement and Restoration Fund (HERF). The HERF was established by NYPA with the relicensing in 2007, and consists of a one-time, lump-sum contribution by NYPA of approximately $16.2 million. Note that the HERF application is only one cycle per year, and is a two-step process – first a conceptual pre-proposal is submitted, then if the ESC approves of that, then a more detailed proposal is invited by the ESC.

  • See: Projects Funded (Niagara Relicensing Ecological Standing Committee/Habitat Enhancement and Restoration Fund (HERF) Projects Approved)

Improvement Projects:

Under the new License the Niagara Relicensing ESC is responsible for reviewing the implementation and ongoing status of the eight defined Habitat Improvement Projects (HIPs) that were established as NYPA implementation obligations with the Niagara Relicensing.

See below for details.

 

(1) Strawberry Island Restoration: This HIP created additional complex marsh and high-energy wetland habitats for fish and wildlife, complementing recent habitat enhancements undertaken by the DEC. The improvements created approximately seven acres of new diverse wetland habitat for fish, wildlife and water birds on the state-owned island. The improvement project includes measures to protect downstream shallow water habitats that may be affected by erosion caused by severe storms. Recreational opportunities, i.e., fishing, hunting and bird watching, were also enhanced. Following field studies, excavation work began in 2015 and was completed in 2016. This was followed by extensive planting that was conducted in phases through 2018. Monitoring is ongoing.

(2) Frog Island Restoration: This HIP involved re-creation of approximately five acres of diverse habitat conditions at the site of a former island in the Niagara River. The habitat was created in a high-energy environment and consists of coarse (boulders, cobbles and gravel) and fine (muck, silt, clay and sand) substrate at variable depths that will support fish and wildlife; a series of low-profile berms was added to protect the new interior habitat area. 

Excavation work for this HIP was begun in 2013 and completed in 2015, followed by two years of planting. Ongoing monitoring has indicated that there is some erosion occurring in the interior, for which NYPA has proposed some further protective measures to the ESC.

(3) Motor Island Shoreline Protection: The HIP includes the establishment of shoreline aquatic habitat and riparian vegetation up to the water’s edge to help stabilize shoreline erosion for the state-owned island, which is managed by the DEC for protection and enhancement of fish and wildlife, protected by low-profile berms. Some upland demolition work and planting was also included. Excavation  and upland work was begun and completed in 2012, with some site plantings added in 2013. Due to sustained high water levels in following years, some further erosion was still observed and further work was completed in 2018 to raise the berms and restore eroded areas. Monitoring is ongoing.

(4) Beaver Island Wetland Restoration: this HIP consists of the removal of fill placed at a former riverine wetland and site grading, and invasive species-control to help restore hemi-marsh and shallow pools to the Beaver Island shoreline. Diverse native vegetation was planted extensively, providing food and cover for wildlife. Construction, including excavation and planting, was begun in 2010 and completed in 2013. Five years of post-implementation monitoring has confirmed that the HIP succeeded in re-establishing a functioning wetland, with more limited monitoring still ongoing.

(5) Control of Invasive Species-Buckhorn/Tifft Marshes: This HIP seeks to control exotic and invasive plant species, including Japanese knotweed and common reed, in Tifft Marsh in Lackawanna and Buckhorn Marsh on Grand Island. These measures promote growth of diverse wetland vegetation and improve wetland functions. Initial implementation began in 2009, with annual treatments since then. Planning for beyond 2020 has been initiated.

(6) Osprey Nesting on the Niagara River: This HIP has increased the availability of suitable nesting sites in the Upper Niagara River. Osprey nesting has been  improved by installing pole-mounted platforms in wetland areas at or near Beaver Island State Park, East River Marsh, Buckhorn Marsh, Adams Slip, and Tifft Farm Nature Preserve. The first installation was successfully completed in August 2007 near the Buckhorn Island Weirs. Five of six nesting poles have been installed, however, installation of the sixth was postponed pending a review by NYPA and the ESC of the status of osprey populations in the area and specific usage at each of the NYPA-installed poles in 2019, the ESC approved NYPA’s proposal to go forward with the sixth pole installation, and NYPA is currently reviewing candidate sites.

(7) Common Tern Nesting: In consultation with DEC and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, this HIP was constructed in 2009 and expanded in 2010 to create and enhance nesting sites for common tern—a threatened species in New York State—at four locations on the Buffalo Harbor breakwall. The work consisted of anchoring steel enclosures at the highest elevations of the breakwater sites, adding gravel-nesting substrate, removing vegetation, installing  perimeter fencing, and in the first year only the deployment of a tern-nesting barge. With occasional exceptions due to predation, these sites have been very successful, although an unusually severe storm in late 2019 has disrupted one of the sites by destroying the USACE’s in-progress refurbishment work. Contingency planning for tern nesting at another site in 2020 is ongoing.

(8) Installation of Fish Habitat/Attraction Structures: Since the bottom of the Niagara River provides limited cover for fish, this HIP included prototype designs for large-object (boulder) cover in selected areas along the bottom of the upper Niagara River where fish can find shelter from water velocity, and be able to forage. Among the species that are benefiting are muskellunge, northern pike, walleye, and largemouth and smallmouth bass. Construction at four sites was completed in 2009, although the structure at the shallowest site is no longer viable due to damage by ice.  NYPA has completed the four non-consecutive years of diving/video monitoring that had been committed to, and the ESC accepted NYPA’s proposal to discontinue further activities related to this HIP. It should be noted, however, the remaining structures have served as prototypes for additional fish attraction structure installations by others under the Habitat Enhancement and Restoration Fund.

 

Recreation Enhancement Projects

NYPA, in cooperation with OPRHP, has implemented the following recreation projects within, or in the vicinity of, the Niagara Project boundary. NYPA has spent millions of dollars on these capital improvements to enhance public access to the river in the area of the project, including additional parking for anglers and others; to expand public use opportunities; and to enhance the experience of visitors to the Niagara Project area. 

Projects installed directly at NYPA Niagara Project facilities include:

(1)   Upper Mountain Trail, Stairway and Parking Lot development;

(2)   Robert Moses Fishing Pier Parking and access enhancements;

(3)   Upper Niagara Intake Structure and Observation site parking, fishing, and landscaping improvements.

 


Projects installed by NYPA in cooperation with OPRHP (or vice versa) in the vicinity of the Niagara Project, include:

(1)   Reservoir State Park

(2)   Niagara River Gorge Trail improvements

(3)   Earl W. Brydges Artpark improvements

(4)   Upper and Lower Whirlpool Overlooks

(5)   Schoellkopf Site Overlook

(6)   Great Gorge Railway Trail Stone Stairway

(7)   Fishing Access Stairs to the Lower Niagara River

Settlement Agreements/Partners:

For Host Communities Fund skip to page 117 of the PDF document: Niagara-Power-Project-Relicensing-Settlements

For Buffalo & Erie skip to page 277 of the PDF document: Niagara-Power-Project-Relicensing-Settlements

Information to be posted soon

For Niagara University skip to page 246 of the PDF document: Niagara-Power-Project-Relicensing-Settlements

For Tuscarora Nation skip to pages 33/34 and again at page 144 of the PDF document: Niagara-Power-Project-Relicensing-Settlements

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