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N.Y. Power Authority and Ontario Power Generation Mark 50 Years of Power Production at St. Lawrence Project

Christine Prichard

June 24, 2008


MASSENA—Fifty years of harnessing the St. Lawrence River for clean, low-cost and reliable electricity were commemorated Tuesday by the New York Power Authority (NYPA) with a daylong series of celebrations highlighted by the rededication of the International Friendship Monument. 

Officials from Ontario Power Generation (OPG) joined the Power Authority for the ceremony at the monument, which is at the midpoint of the Robert Moses-Robert H. Saunders Power Dam, which crosses the St. Lawrence River between Massena, N.Y., and Cornwall, Ontario.  

The monument was first unveiled at the Moses-Saunders Dam on June 27, 1959—about a year after power production began—in a dedication ceremony attended by Queen Elizabeth II and Vice President Richard M. Nixon. It stands 60 feet high, in a rectangular bay about 130 feet long by 25 feet wide, on the downstream side of the dam. 

“Fifty years ago next month, power flowed for the first time from this magnificent dam that spans the border between our two nations,” said Frank S. McCullough, Jr., NYPA chairman. “The International Rapids that once raged here had been tamed, and a vast power project created through a remarkable cooperative effort by Ontario Hydro and the Power Authority.  The cooperative spirit and deep respect that marked the power project’s construction continue to this day.” 

“We are here today to mark the first commercial power at this international facility, along with the 50 years of accomplishment that followed,” said Roger B. Kelley, NYPA president and chief executive officer. “The shared power dam is indicative of the harmony and goodwill between the U.S. and Canada, as embodied by the International Friendship Monument, which has been refurbished for this joyful occasion.”

“We are pleased to be partnering with the New York Power Authority in rededicating this important symbol of cooperation between our two organizations,” Pierre Charlebois, chief operating officer, Ontario Power Generation, said. “OPG and our predecessor company—Ontario Hydro—have worked together with the Power Authority for more than half a century to provide electricity to the people of Ontario and New York State. Today’s event is yet another example of this partnership—a partnership which has served our two great countries well for many years and will continue to do so for many years to come.” 

The ceremonies were part of a daylong series of events marking the 50th anniversary of power production at the St. Lawrence-Franklin D. Roosevelt Power Project, including a breakfast with the power plant employees, a luncheon with local officials and a community celebration featuring a live concert and fireworks. 

The morning event celebrated the close ties between the U.S. and Canada that made the power dam possible and that have supported its successful operation. The St. Lawrence-Franklin D. Roosevelt Power Project is the Power Authority section of the international facility.   

The community celebration was held at the St. Lawrence-FDR project visitors center at Hawkins Point, where the public was treated to free ice cream. Northern Symphonic Winds, a wind and percussion ensemble from the Crane School of Music, at the State University of New York at Potsdam, performed various compositions, including Morton Gould’s St. Lawrence Suite, which premiered on Sept. 5, 1958, in a celebration marking the first power at the Moses-Saunders Power Dam.   

The power dam is made up of two 16-turbine-generator sections operated independently by NYPA and OPG, with the dam extending 3,200 feet across the St. Lawrence River, or the length of nearly 11 football fields. The Power Authority portion of the dam—the St. Lawrence-Franklin D. Roosevelt Power Project—began generating power on July 17, 1958.

St. Lawrence-FDR Project: NYPA’s First Generating Facility

The Power Authority’s founding and the St. Lawrence-FDR project are intertwined. In 1931, then-Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Power Authority Act for the Power Authority to develop the hydroelectric potential of the St. Lawrence River. Because of controversies concerning public-versus-private development, along with those over a companion Seaway project for shipping, construction would not begin for another two decades.

In October, 1952, the International Joint Commission granted permits to the U.S. and Canada, with the remaining requirements for construction then falling into place. 

The Power Authority obtained a federal license in 1953 to develop the U.S. share of the power dam, with construction beginning in August 1954 under Robert Moses, who had recently become the Power Authority’s chairman. First power occurred less than four years after the groundbreaking, with full power flowing on both sides of the border in 1959. 

Over the decades that followed, the St. Lawrence-FDR project has served as a mainstay of clean, low-cost and reliable electricity, producing some 335 billion kilowatt hours of electricity, which would be sufficient power to meet electricity demand in the U.S. for one month. The project has also prevented emissions of about 175 million tons of greenhouse gases from fossil-fueled plants, avoiding the need for roughly 580 million barrels of oil. 

In October 2003, the Power Authority received a new 50-year federal license for the St. Lawrence-FDR project, leading to a host of new economic, environmental and recreational benefits to the region stemming from various agreements.

The Power Authority’s stewardship of the facility has also included an ongoing Life Extension and Modernization program. Nine of 16 turbine-generators have been refurbished, as part of a $281 million program scheduled to run through 2013. 

The St. Lawrence-FDR project has long served as a mainstay for Massena’s aluminum industry. Late last year, the Power Authority and Alcoa reached an agreement in principle for the aluminum manufacturer’s continued receipt of low-cost hydropower at its two Massena plants. In return, the company will commit to retain at least 900 jobs over a 30-year contract term and invest approximately $600 million for a major modernization and overhaul of its Massena East smelter. 

The 800,000-kilowatt NYPA hydroelectric project also helps to lower the electric bills of upstate residents and others.

  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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