Group blasts proposals for $16m

NYPA official: heed group RIVER PROJECTS: CEO says environmental concerns have merit

By ELIZABETH GRAHAM
& LAURA BOMYEA
JOHNSON NEWSPAPERS SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 28, 2009
The New York Power Authority's top official says members of a proposed agency to mete out $16 million and 20 megawatts of low-cost power for economic development should consider environmental views in deciding what projects the money and power should assist.

"It's important that the environmental community up there has some more input," said Richard M. Kessel, NYPA president and chief executive officer. "I don't think NYPA should be getting involved in determining their role, but I want to make sure the leaders of the task force hear them and talk to them."

A spokesman for the St. Lawrence Valley Environmental Coalition, a group representing organizations and citizens concerned about the environment, said the proposed St. Lawrence River Redevelopment Agency should weigh projects' ecological impact before agreeing to give out money or power. The agency, once it's formed, will be governed by a five-member panel representing St. Lawrence County and the towns of Lisbon, Waddington, Louisville and Massena.

The coalition's pleas so far have largely fallen on deaf ears, member Richard W. Grover said.

"Our group has come to the conclusion that we could do a lot better by modeling the approach after what's been done in the Niagara River area," Mr. Grover said. "They've set up a commission to prepare what they call a greenway plan, and now they're implementing the plan in what seems to us to be a simple, straightforward and efficient way to carry out the wishes of the people involved, those being county governments, town and village governments and citizens."

The Niagara Greenway Commission's plan, available online at www.niagaragreenway.org, outlines a comprehensive approach to preserve green space while encouraging community and economic development.

"A greenway plan would coalesce all of the planning done by the town and village of Massena and other communities that have undertaken waterfront revitalization plans into a single document that everybody could agree on. It would have something in it for all the stakeholders — industrial development, community development, agricultural diversification, environmental management and other things," Mr. Grover said.

St. Lawrence County's Environmental Management Council supports that view, Legislator Laura J. Perry, the Legislature's EMC representative, told lawmakers Monday. Legislators said they hesitate to open a dialogue with the coalition at the 11th hour, when NYPA is poised to release the money and power.

"I don't want anything to hinder this," said Legislator David W. Forsythe, R-Lisbon. "I've attended every Local Government Task Force meeting there has been, and I had never seen them there until the last one."

"Every month that passes is another month that revenue does not flow into this county to help get us things we don't have," said Legislator J. Patrick Turbett, D-Potsdam.

The Local Government Task Force proposed creating the river agency two years ago. Mr. Grover said he contacted the task force in May, but was not invited to present the coalition's views until September. He said the group does not want to delay the process, but wants officials to "take a good, hard look at the process before they decide to move forward with the way things are set up now."

Mr. Kessel said NYPA trustees are not likely to review the river agency proposal until January, and suggested that town and county officials in the meantime listen to what the coalition has to say.

"I'm not going to try to get in the middle of what they want and what the task force wants," Mr. Kessel said. "But I want to make sure they're taken seriously, because I take them seriously and I think the Power Authority does, too."

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