MASSENA -- The New York Power Authority Tuesday approved a $3.3 million contract to J. E. Sheehan Contracting Corp. of Potsdam for construction of dikes and water control structures to create the Nichols Hill Island Habitat Improvement Project.
When completed in 2013, the Nichols Hill Island HIP will create a controlled level pond covering approximately 190 acres at the western end of the Wilson Hill Wildlife Management area where water levels will be managed independently from the water levels in the St. Lawrence River.
The pond will be isolated from the St. Lawrence River by four dikes, three of which will be new and one reconstructed. In addition, two new water control structures will permit fish passage to and from the St. Lawrence River. The improved wetland and pond will create a diverse ecosystem with emergent wetland plants producing oxygen and providing cover and food for fish and other aquatic species and wildlife.
The purpose of the Nichols Hill Island HIP, one of 10 such projects in Northern New York associated with NYPA’s 2003 federal license for the St. Lawrence-FDR Power Project, is to create a controlled level pond and wetland to protect a variety of local warm water fish and other wetland species.
The area is now a bay within the St. Lawrence River bordering Nichols Hill Island and subject to seasonal water level fluctuations. The habitat improvement project will stabilize water levels and provide improved aquatic and wetland habitat.
“The habitat improvement work that the Power Authority has undertaken in Northern New York is further evidence that economic growth and environmental protection can and should go hand-in- hand,” said Judge Eugene L. Nicandri, NYPA Trustee and Massena resident. “I am proud of the work we’ve accomplished to support various natural habitats within the St. Lawrence River ecosystem as well as the positive impact that we are having on the local economy by working with local businesses like Sheehan, to implement these environmental improvements.”
“The development of Nichols Pond is the culmination of several years’ work designing and building habitats within the Wilson Hill Wildlife Management Area,” said Mark Slade, NYPA manager, Relicensing and Implementation. “As a member of NYPA’s Relicensing team, it’s been a pleasure to see these projects come to fruition and watch how each little piece of the habitat—be it for fish, fowl or plant species—works together to create an entire, healthy freshwater ecosystem.”
Wilson Hill Wildlife Management Area is a 3,400 acre wildlife management area created during the construction of the St. Lawrence-FDR Power Project by the Power Authority that is managed, under agreement, by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
"The great partnership our agency has with the New York Power Authority continues with this Nichols Hill Habitat Improvement Project," said Judy Drabicki, Region 6 director of the DEC. "The project conditions and time schedule developed works around the critical periods for both fish spawning and nesting bald eagles and blanding's turtles. We look forward to the final result -- creation of the Nichols Pool and the enhanced habitats -- which can be managed for the diverse assemblage of fish, wildlife and plants that thrive in areas like this."
J.E. Sheehan Contracting Corp. was the lowest, qualified bidder for the work and has substantial experience with similar ecological projects, officials said. Sheehan has previously performed NYPA-funded work at other locations within the Wilson Hill Wildlife Management Area.
NYPA agreed to undertake ten HIPs in Northern New York as part of an agreement associated with its 2003 50-year federal license for its St. Lawrence-FDR Power Project. Other HIPs include sturgeon spawning bed construction near Iroquois Dam; walleye spawning bed improvement in Brandy Brook; habitat improvement for the threatened Blanding’s turtle; wetland restoration and new fish passage in Coles Creek; common tern nesting improvements in the St. Lawrence River and osprey nesting platforms along the shoreline. To date, eight of the 10 HIPs have been substantially completed.