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N.Y. Power Authority Official Warns About Aquatic Invasive Species in the Great Lakes

Michael Saltzman

March 7, 2007


WASHINGTON—A New York Power Authority (NYPA) environmental manager Wednesday warned about non-indigenous aquatic species, such as zebra mussels, entering the Great Lakes water basin, and emphasized the importance of continued aggressive efforts to minimize their potential effects on power production and other industries. 

“Continued federal and state funding of invasive monitoring and control programs and research that augments these programs is essential,” said John Kahabka, NYPA manager of environmental operations, in testimony before a Congressional subcommittee. “Without these efforts, it is a certainty that additional invasive species will infect the Great Lakes and their tributaries. Those new species will present new social and economic challenges to power production, industry, recreation, safety and health in Great Lakes communities.” 

Kahabka noted that zebra mussels and other invasive species have been transported to North America in the ballast water of transoceanic ships. “This is clearly the vector of choice in the worldwide movement of aquatic invaders,” he said. 

The Power Authority operates two large hydroelectric projects within the Great Lakes Basin, the Niagara and St. Lawrence-Franklin D. Roosevelt Projects, as well as a pumped-storage hydroelectric project in the northern Catskills, and several small hydro facilities that have also been affected by zebra mussels. It has practiced a variety of remedial methodologies, from chemical control to mechanical cleaning, to keep the finger-nail-sized creatures and other species away from water intake pipes. 

“Recognizing the need for immediate measures to address the problem in 1990, the Power Authority instituted monitoring and mitigation programs at a number of our facilities around the state,” Kahabka said. “Unfortunately, there are limited effective mitigation options for control of the zebra mussel.” 

He said the most widely-used control method involves use of chlorine or molluscicides, which NYPA has employed under permit by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). Both the Power Authority and the DEC have closely monitored their use. 

“To date, the New York Power Authority, to a large degree, has overcome the initial effects of invasive species on the operations of our facilities, but it has not been without impact to both our operations and costs,” Kahabka said, noting that the Authority has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on mitigation measures. This includes activities at two nuclear power plants—the James A. FitzPatrick and Indian Point 3 plants by Lake Ontario and the Hudson River, respectively, which it owned until November 2000 before selling them to Entergy, a large nuclear operator.  

The large number of power plants relying on Great Lakes water for power production underscores the potential disruptive threat of invasive species for the electric power industry. The Northeast-Midwest Institute, a non-profit research organization, calculates there are 535 power plants within the U.S. portion of the Great Lakes basin, with 90 percent of them thermal facilities that use water to produce steam or coolant.

Kahabka, who works in NYPA’s White Plains Office, testified before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment. He represents the American Public Power Association on the Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force, an interagency committee established under a 1990 federal law. A principal goal of the task force is to minimize the harmful effects of aquatic nuisance species already introduced into the waters of the United States.

 About NYPA:

 ■    NYPA uses no tax money or state credit.  It finances its operations through the sale of bonds and revenues earned in large part through sales of electricity.  ■    NYPA is a leader in promoting energy-efficiency, new energy technologies and electric transportation initiatives.  ■    It is the nation’s largest state-owned electric utility, with 18 generating facilities in various parts of the state and more than 1,400 circuit-miles of transmission lines.

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