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River Agency members aren’t giving up a quest for control of power proceeds

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LOUSIVILLE – St. Lawrence River Valley Redevelopment Agency members say they will not support a proposal that would allow a board appointed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to make decisions about who gets proceeds from the sale of the agency’s 20 megawatts of low-cost hydropower.

The St. Lawrence Local Government Task Force formed the River Agency in 2010 to manage $16 million left over from the failed St. Lawrence Aquarium project and 20 megawatts of low-cost power from the New York Power Authority for economic development.

The money and power was granted to alleviate what local officials have called inequities between NYPA’s 2003 relicensing settlement to operate the St. Lawrence-FDR hydrodam in Massena and the Niagara settlement in Western New York. NYPA had initially agreed to allow the River Agency to sell on the open market any power not allocated to help businesses and use the proceeds as it sees fit.

That ability was left out of a contract Mr. Cuomo approved last year between NYPA and the River Agency granting the power, and special legislation has been sought since to allow the agency to move ahead with its original plan. Proceeds from the power were intended to fund the River Agency’s operations and replenish its community development fund which aids municipalities and organizations with economic development projects.

The sale of the power would equate to about $3 million per year.

State Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, told River Agency members in October that before a bill can be reintroduced in January, agency members will have to decide whether to support a proposal by Mr. Cuomo to establish a separate economic development council to allocate proceeds from the sale of the power.

Massena resident Charlie McGrath called on the River Agency to support keeping control of the proceeds local during a public comment session at its meeting Tuesday.

“I continue to see these resources moving farther and farther away from the host communities,” Mr. McGrath said. “This is our money, this is our power, and anything that takes these resources and moves it anywhere away from the shoreline I have reservations about. I want you guys to echo my feelings if they are yours, and to tell some of the politicians who are hoping they can save us from this.”

River Agency Chairman Robert O. McNeil and board member Edward J. Murphy agreed.

“You haven’t said anything I disagree with,” Mr. McNeil said. “It has been frustrating. We have all signed the contract, and we want it implemented between the state, county and five towns.”

Mr. McNeil said Tuesday he is working with Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa, who has been in contact with the governor’s office, to schedule a meeting discuss the proposal.

“We are working through this,” Mr. McNeil said. “I am optimistic about it.”

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