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Lisbon continues its push for hydroelectric power

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LISBON —Advocates are not giving up the push for a hydroelectric power project along the St. Lawrence River that would provide cheap electricity to the region. A feasibility study conducted in May by the Canton-based Thew Associates found that the flow on the St. Lawrence River between Lisbon Beach and Galop Island, where advocates hope to locate the project, was inadequate for hydroelectric turbines.

But Rhonda L. Roethel, a Lisbon resident and former town Planning Board member who has taken the lead on the project, said the project is not dead.

“We may try to redo the velocity testing in the spring,” she said.

The feasibility study in May was conducted free of charge.

Ms. Roethel said there is a possibility that the low flow was a result of the river’s low water level at the time of testing and that further study could return different findings.

“We’re in the stage where we are looking to try to decide where the best area is [for the turbines],” Ms. Roethel said.

She said she and several other community members working on the project are also considering what type of turbines would be best.

Over the summer Ms. Roethel was considering turbines made by Vortex Hydro Energy, based in Ann Arbor, Mich. The turbines made by Vortex Hydro Energy are entirely submerged and don’t use blades, relying instead on the vibration created by turbulent water to produce energy. Turbines like that would minimize the potential risk to fish.

But that company has put its turbine production on hold, Ms. Roethel said, and she is researching other options.

Town Councilor-elect Robert O. McNeil said he “will certainly help [Ms. Roethel] because it’s worth looking at. We’ve got nothing to lose.”

Mr. McNeil, who has joined with Ms. Roethel in her effort, said, “If it’s possible we sure ought to explore it. I think that most people in the town would think like I do that it’s worth researching.”

Ms. Roethel said she also plans on reaching out to state representatives for help securing grants to forward the project.

She has said the goal is to produce enough power to serve 3,000 homes and create a low-cost, local power source that can spur economic development.

The proposed Lisbon hydropower project is not the first to surface or hit snags in recent years. Hydroelectric company Riverbank Power, Toronto, Ontario, in 2009 nixed plans to set up a $2 billion underground hydroelectric generating plant in Ogdensburg.

The company hoped to use water from the St. Lawrence River to run through four turbines placed 2,000 feet underground below the Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority industrial park to generate electricity.

The plans halted after the New York Power Authority and state Department of Environmental Conservation filed for intervenor status, raising questions about the project’s enviornmental impact on the river.

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