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News stories tagged with "hydropower"

The construction site of the new hydropower plant on the Raquette river.
The construction site of the new hydropower plant on the Raquette river.

Fingers crossed, Potsdam harnesses Raquette's power

We're all shivering from the arctic cold, but village of Potsdam officials aren't complaining. Half of the Raquette River is being diverted as workers build a second hydroelectric plant in the village. The four megawatt project will bring the village new revenue and green energy when it goes online next summer. But officials worry another thaw could interfere with the project. David Sommerstein reports.  Go to full article

Downstate NYPA chief promises Upstate help

As the financial crisis and state budget cuts buffet the already struggling economies of the North Country, look for low-cost hydropower to loom larger. The New York Power Authority produces 900 megawatts of cheap electricity at the dam on the St. Lawrence River. Alcoa buys about half of that to employ some 1300 people in Massena. North Country officials have long argued more of the power should energize businesses here rather than being sold downstate. The new CEO of the Power Authority says he's willing to listen. Richard Kessel has been on the job for about a month. He was a controversial appointment by Governor Paterson. First, because he's from downstate - Kessel ran the Long Island Power Authority from 1997 to 2006. Second, he was known for mismanagement and patronage in that job. Kessel told David Sommerstein that's behind him. He said the priorities in his new post in NYPA are to bring transparency to an agency widely known for secrecy and to help the Upstate economy.  Go to full article
IJC Chairwoman Irene Brooks faces a determined crowd in Alexandria Bay.
IJC Chairwoman Irene Brooks faces a determined crowd in Alexandria Bay.

River residents make last case for better water levels

At least 260 St. Lawrence River residents spoke with one voice at a water levels hearing last night in Alexandria Bay. It was the last chance to persuade the International Joint Commission to adopt a more environmentally friendly plan for controlling the waters of the St. Lawrence and Lake Ontario. The plan, called "B+", has the support of local, state, and federal lawmakers, including Governor David Paterson, and a broad coalition of environmental groups. But following a five year, $20 million study, the IJC wants to implement a plan that's very similar to the original 50-year old one. The agency says it has to protect homeowners along the southern shore of Lake Ontario.  Go to full article
The "friendship monument" rededication was a small, quiet affair atop the dam.
The "friendship monument" rededication was a small, quiet affair atop the dam.

NYPA celebrates 50th amidst controversy

50 years ago, the Moses-Saunders power dam began producing electricity from the St. Lawrence River in Massena. It forever changed the North Country's environment, economy, and culture. The dam also gave birth to a state-owned utility called the New York Power Authority. Today, NYPA owns 18 generating plants and is one of the most politically powerful authorities in New York. It's developed a reputation for secrecy and patronage. There are widespread calls for NYPA's reform. Yesterday, the Power Authority celebrated 50 years of harnessing the waters of the St. Lawrence in a small event on the middle of the dam. As David Sommerstein reports, it was a ceremony full of contradictions.  Go to full article
Massena backs up to its riverfront.  Leaders hope a dam can spark a revival.
Massena backs up to its riverfront. Leaders hope a dam can spark a revival.

Massena's hydropower hopes fuel debate

In 1997, Massena's 200-year old dam breached, sending miles of slow, flat water downstream. Environmentalists saw the change as a victory for free-flowing rivers and the endangered fish that thrive in them. But many Massena residents miss the high, placid waters of the old Grasse River. People used to fish and boat there. Local leaders have started a movement to return the pond, by building a hydropower dam half-a-mile downriver from where the old dam used to be. The dam's fueled a classic debate of the economy versus the environment, but with a twist. A Superfund site of toxic chemicals is also in the mix. David Sommerstein reports.  Go to full article
Freighter in the Thousand Islands.
Freighter in the Thousand Islands.

IJC: Environmental plan just out of reach

A binational commission has chosen a new plan for controlling water levels on the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario. The International Joint Commission says "Plan 2007" is a minor tweak of a plan called "D+" and benefits almost every stakeholder in the region. The IJC says it improves conditions for hydropower, shipping, and some wetlands in Lake Ontario over the existing plan. And it makes water levels more reliable for the Port of Montreal. The IJC is making its decision official at press conferences in Washington and Ottawa this morning at 10. Irene Brooks is the U.S. chair of the Commission. She told David Sommerstein the IJC wanted to choose the best plan for the environment, which is known as "B+". "B+" is by far the preferred alternative in the North Country. But Brooks says that plan would cause too much erosion along the southern shore of Lake Ontario, near Rochester, and hurt property owners.  Go to full article
The <i>Martha Black</i>. Source: Canadian Coast Guard
The Martha Black. Source: Canadian Coast Guard

Aboard the icebreaker Martha Black

The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker, the Martha Black, continues its controversial cutting of the Seaway channel today. Environmentalists on the St. Lawrence River say icebreaking happens too early. The St. Lawrence Seaway is scheduled to open this weekend. The Department of Environmental Conservation opposes Seaway navigation before April 1st. The DEC says freighters' wakes can damage fish and wildlife habitat when there's as little as two inches of ice on the River. Two years ago, the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe won a court settlement with the Seaway over icebreaking through the Akwesasne segment of the River. It allows Mohawks aboard to monitor the effect of icebreaking on the shoreline. Tony David is with the Mohawks' environment division. He was aboard the Martha Black yesterday afternoon as the icebreaker cut a channel near Valleyfield, Quebec, about 25 miles downriver from the hydropower dam in Massena. David Sommerstein asked him to step outside the wheelhouse so we could hear the icebreaker in action.  Go to full article

Alcoa promises 1065 jobs in Massena

Massena will stay at least a one company town for decades to come. Months after General Motors decided to shutdown its Massena plant, Alcoa, the world's largest aluminum producer, announced it would stay. Alcoa signed a 30-year low-cost power contract with the New York Power Authority. The company will guarantee more than 1000 jobs and overhaul its two plants in Massena. Governor Eliot Spitzer announced the pact Friday afternoon. David Sommerstein reports.  Go to full article

Alcoa, state near power deal

Alcoa and the New York Power Authority are getting closer to an agreement that would keep the aluminum maker in Massena. But reports that a deal is imminent appear premature. A spokesperson for Governor Eliot Spitzer told the Watertown Daily Times "what you're hearing isn't quite what is actually going on." Alcoa and the state signed a confidentiality agreement earlier this month. The two sides are negotiating a new contract to give Alcoa low-cost hydropower produced at the dam on the St. Lawrence River. Alcoa has offered to guarantee 900 jobs and a $600 million renovation at its two plants in Massena. Currently about 1,200 people work there now. Alcoa spokeswoman Susan Flynn told the Times that "progress is being made" in the talks. Speaking in Potsdam last month, Governor Spitzer said he wants a deal done by the end of the year.  Go to full article

Why is the St. Lawrence so low?

So why are the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario so low this summer? David Sommerstein called John Kangas. He's the U.S. Secretary of the International St. Lawrence River Board of Control. This is the agency that actually determines how much water should be let through the dam in Massena, controlling water levels all the way back to Niagara Falls. Kangas says the problems started last winter, when there was too much water. So to prevent flooding in Lake Ontario, the Board let a lot of water through the dam.  Go to full article

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