St. Lawrence County, St. Regis Mohawks, New York State have land claim deal
Wednesday, May 28, 2014 - 3:49 pm

A decades-old Mohawk land claim could soon be resolved as officials from St. Lawrence County, the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe and New York state signed a memorandum of understanding in Albany on today.

Under the agreement, the tribe will have the opportunity to buy back 1,360 acres in Massena and 3,440 acres in Brasher.

According to St. Lawrence County Legislature Chair Jonathan Putney, it is a "willing buyer, willing seller" situation.

"Landowners have the option of staying as long as they want and selling to whoever they want … there's no eviction, no eminent domain," Putney said.

In return, St. Lawrence County will get a $4 million annual payment from the state's share of gaming compact payments. The county will also receive a one-time $2 million signing bonus from the state and $1.5 million from the tribe, when the final deal is inked. The tribe will also release the other half of gaming compact monies held in escrow since 2010.

Putney said the state also agreed to conduct an environmental impact study for the rooftop highway proposal proponents call "I-98" and move forward with the monetization of 20 megawatts of power the River Valley Redevelopment Agency gets from the New York Power Authority. The funds would go to Massena, Louisville, Lisbon and Waddington.

Another aspect of the deal, Putney said, is NYPA will lease a hangar at Massena International Airport, creating a new revenue stream for the town.

In addition to the land, the tribe will get $2 million per year for 35 years, up to nine megawatts of low-rate power for the reservation and free tuition for tribe members at SUNY colleges.

County and tribal leaders say they are pleased with the deal.

"Today's signing of the MOU is good news for the residents and the communities of Massena and Brasher, and for all of St. Lawrence County," Putney said.