$2 million per year earmarked for economic development projects in St. Lawrence County from St. Regis Mohawk land claim settlement
Monday, June 16, 2014 - 6:30 pm

MASSENA -- Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo today announced an agreement with legislative leaders to create a new development fund of about $2 million a year devoted to spurring economic activity in the St. Lawrence County.

The agreement allows for the net earnings from the market sale of a block of unutilized hydropower from the New York Power Authority’s (NYPA) St. Lawrence-Franklin D. Roosevelt Hydroelectric Plant to be applied for economic development in the county.

The use of the anticipated earnings of approximately $2 million a year is consistent with commitments made under the recently announced St. Regis land claim agreement for payments to St. Lawrence County as part of the overall package of provisions settling the matter, Cuomo said in a prepared statement.

“By tapping into the region’s supply of unutilized hydropower, we can jumpstart the economy in the North Country, invest in local businesses and help create jobs and new opportunities for New Yorkers in St. Lawrence County,” Cuomo said.

Under the agreement with state legislative leaders for the new legislation, up to 20 megawatts (MW) of hydropower that is made available under contract to the Massena Electric Department (MED) for “sub-allocations” to eligible businesses will also be harnessed for area economic development from the net earnings of the sale of the power into the wholesale electricity marketplace.

“This agreement to monetize megawatts into millions of dollars annually marks the beginning of a new chapter in energizing our economy through the creation of new jobs in our community,” said Jonathan Putney, chairman of the St. Lawrence County Board of Legislators.

Robert O. McNeil, chairman of the St. Lawrence River Valley Redevelopment Agency, noted the agency has been working “for nearly four years to bring the monetized value of our economic development power to this area, something that has now been made possible.”

The net earnings, or “proceeds” from the hydropower will be used to award grants to enterprises in St. Lawrence County from a Northern New York Economic Development Fund.

An entity created by the legislation—the Northern New York Power Proceeds Allocation Board—will recommend the awards from the fund on the basis of statutory criteria, including capital investments and jobs., The NYPA Board of Trustees will take into account the recommendations before making awards.

Patrick J. Kelly, chief executive officer of the St. Lawrence County Industrial Development Agency, said, “Today's announcement significantly increases the tools available for bringing jobs and investments to St. Lawrence County. We appreciate Governor Cuomo's continued focus on economic development and are excited to work with the New York Power Authority and Empire State Development to put these resources into action.”

The 20 MW is drawn from hydropower previously sold to out-of-state electricity customers and redirected to New York State during the 2003 federal relicensing of the St. Lawrence-FDR project.

The Northern New York Power Proceeds Allocation Board will consist of five members appointed by the Governor. Under the legislation, three of the members must reside in St. Lawrence County.

Judge Eugene L. Nicandri, a NYPA trustee and Massena resident, said, “The Northern New York Proceeds legislation will further bolster the extraordinary value that the St. Lawrence-FDR project brings to the North Country as a cornerstone for the area economy. Governor Cuomo and the state legislature are to be congratulated for their determined efforts to bring about this legislation.”

Since 2012, the 20 MW has been available for sub-allocation by the MED to businesses, at cost-based rates, in consultation with the St. Lawrence River Valley Redevelopment Agency (RVRDA), the Lawrence County Industrial Development Agency Local Development Corporation (IDA), and the North Country Regional Economic Development Council. The monetized value of the power will now also be captured as a result of the new legislation. Both the RVRDA and the IDA will assist in administration of the fund and will provide input on grant applications working closely with NYPA and Empire State Development Corp.