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Village to serve as lead agency for Springs Park project

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MASSENA - The Massena Village Board will be asked at its meeting tonight to serve as lead agency for a state environmental review for a proposal to add a new boat launch, docks and a fishing area at Springs Park off West Hatfield Street.

St. Regis Mohawk Tribe officials and Attorney General Eric Schneidermanannounced in March they’d reached a $19.4 million settlement with Alcoa, Inc. and the former Reynolds Metals Company for the damage caused by contaminants released by the aluminum manufacturers’ Massena operations since the 1950s.

Combined with $1.8 million from a 2011 bankruptcy settlement from Generals Motors, the two settlements will provide more than $20 million toward restoring local fisheries, protecting the area environment and working to restore aspects of Mohawk Indian heritage that were impacted by the decades-long fishing ban.

Approximately $8.4 million of the settlement funds will support traditional Mohawk cultural practices, such as apprenticeships on Mohawk language and traditional teachings, youth outdoor education programs and horticulture programs for medicine, healing and nutrition.

As part of the settlement, Alcoa will spent approximately $2 million to construct and upgrade five local fishing access ramps.

These include the Springs Park project as well as a ramp for small boat access in the town of Louisville on the north shore of the Grasse River, a small-boat ramp in the town of Madrid on the south shore of the Grasse, another ramp on the north shore of the Racquette, east of the village in the town of Massena, and a ramp, floating dock and fishing deck in the town of Massena near the Route 131 bridge on the north shore of the Grasse.

The village board is expected to file a declaration suggested the plan for the improvements at Springs Park would not negatively impact natural resources..

“I don’t know when they’ll be putting the shovel in the ground, but this is really good news for Massena,” Mayor James F. Hidy said Monday afternoon.

According to a promotional flyer outlining the project, the site, which will be handicapped accessible, will include educational signage, a concrete boat ramp, an eight foot by eight foot elevated wooden deck and a floating boat pier.

“I think this will fall right in line with the Raquette River Blue Water Corridor redevelopment that has already started in communities along the Raquette River,” Mr. Hidy said.

The project is ideal for canoes, kayaks and other small boats. A parking area will include five spots designated for boat trailers.

“There’s virtually no investment from the village of Massena,” Mr. Hidy said, calling the project another example of Alcoa being “community-minded.”

According to a statement from Alcoa provided on the promotional flyer, the project is a joint effort with the village.

“Alcoa, in cooperation with the village of Massena, plans to construct a recreational fishing area on the Raquette River for public use,” the statement reads.

“A recreational fishing assessment performed jointly by Alcoa and the trustees determined that Alcoa’s construction of an updated and improved recreational boating facilities ... will compensate the public for lost recreational fishing opportunities due to fishing advisories posted in the area.”

The settlement was reached about 20 years after a consent decree was first filed in federal court by the tribe against Alcoa, Reynolds and GM for damages caused by environmental contaminants.

Aapproximately $10 million of the settlement will go toward the restoration of the local environment, including fisheries, fish habitats and unique habitats under threat of development. That will include the purchase of approximately 465 acres of land that will become part of Coles Creek State Park and the Wilson Hill Wildlife Management Area, according to Laurie A. Marr, spokesperson for Alcoa.

The environmental restoration efforts will focus on areas down river from the Alcoa and former GM plant site, and will include portions of the Grasse River set to be cleaned up by Alcoa as part of its remediation project for that waterway.

The village board will meet at 5:30 p.m. tonight in the second floor meeting room at the Massena Town Hall.

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