Photo and CaptionWHITE PLAINS – The New York Power Authority (NYPA) Board of Trustees on Tuesday approved a $3.3 million contract award to J. E. Sheehan Contracting Corp. of Potsdam, for the construction of dikes and water control structures that will create the Nichols Hill Island Habitat Improvement Project (HIP), located at the western end of the Wilson Hill Wildlife Management area in St. Lawrence County.
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.”
When completed in 2013, the Nichols Hill Island HIP will create a controlled level pond covering approximately 190 acres 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.
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 NYPA’s 2012 Request for Quotation for the work at Nichols Hill Island, and has substantial experience with similar ecological projects. 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.
Last month, the National Hydropower Association (NHA) presented NYPA with its Outstanding Stewards of America’s Waters (OSAW) Award for a historic wetland restoration effort in the Niagara River at Little Beaver Island in Western New York. That award brought NYPA’s total to four OSAW awards—more than any other NHA member. Previous NYPA projects, several of which involved environmental projects in Northern New York, have earned OSAW awards including the Common Tern Nesting Habitat Improvement project in Buffalo Harbor (2010); the Lake Sturgeon Spawning Beds Installation in the St. Lawrence River (2009); and the installation of an Upstream Passage Facility for the American Eel (2007) at NYPA’s St. Lawrence-FDR Power Project in Massena. Prior to the establishment of the OSAW awards in 2007, NYPA received NHA’s Hydro Achievement Award for Recreational Stewardship for its collaboration on several projects with Northern New York communities (2006).
As of January 2012, NYPA has provided over $173.3 million in benefits to Northern New York in support of the St. Lawrence-FDR Power Project’s federal operating license. The benefits include financial support for localities and school districts; enhanced tourism opportunities through the rehabilitation and construction of recreational facilities at state and local parks, campgrounds and boating sites; enhancements to fisheries, environmental facilities and land areas for wildlife habitats; the return of hundreds of acres of property to the community, as well as shoreline stabilization projects; and the St. Lawrence River Research and Education Fund.
Additional information on NYPA’s St. Lawrence-FDR relicensing commitments can be obtained at http://www.stl.nypa.gov
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■NYPA is a leader in promoting energy efficiency, new energy technologies and electric transportation initiatives.■It is the nation's largest state public power organization, with 17 generating facilities in various parts of New York State and more than 1,400 circuit-miles of transmission lines.
■Approximately 80 percent of the electricity it produces is clean renewable hydropower. Its lower-cost power production and electricity purchases support hundreds of thousands of jobs throughout the state.■For more information, www.nypa.gov