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NYPA to Begin Construction To Improve Habitat for Threatened Bird Species in Buffalo Harbor 

Paul DeMichele

April 29, 2009

Photo & Caption


LEWISTON—In celebration of Earth Week, New York Power Authority (NYPA) President and Chief Executive Officer Richard M. Kessel and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today announced that construction work has begun to create additional nesting habitat for Common Tern, a threatened species in New York, at two locations within Buffalo Harbor. 

“The Power Authority is dedicated to continue efforts to implement its new Niagara project license through wildlife projects and a variety of other wide-ranging benefits created with community input to improve the region’s economy and environment,” said Richard M. Kessel, NYPA president and chief executive officer. “The Niagara River is one of New York States most important resources and we feel preserving its wildlife habitats will ensure future generations are able to enjoy the river’s tranquil beauty.” 

“The Terns nesting on the Buffalo Harbor breakwaters and Upper Niagara River constitute the largest colony of the threatened species in the entire Great Lakes,” said Connie Adams, DEC Senior Wildlife Biologist. “Common tern management and protection is a priority to all of us in DEC’s Bureau of Wildlife. Improved habitat on the Buffalo Harbor breakwaters will greatly benefit the tern’s nesting success and chick survival.” 

At one location, NYPA intends to enhance an existing tern nesting area on top of a cell (a concrete navigation structure found within the harbor) at the end of one of the breakwaters. At the second location, NYPA will install a barge-like structure, which will be anchored adjacent to a breakwater. At both locations a suitable nesting surface will be created by adding pea gravel and installing perimeter fencing to protect the flightless chicks. Small shelters will also be constructed to protect the chicks from exposure and improve their chances for survival. 

The breakwaters are under the jurisdiction of the US Army Corps of Engineers who have issued a license to NYPA to access the structures for the purpose of enhancing Tern nesting habitat. The Power Authority agreed to construct at least eight different Habitat Improvement Projects (HIPs) benefiting birds and other wildlife as part of the 50-year license issued by federal regulators for NYPA’s Niagara Power Project in 2007. 

Since 1986, DEC has been conducting annual monitoring of Tern nesting in Buffalo Harbor and has had previous success building nesting grounds on the harbor’s breakwaters. Those improvements needed to be installed each spring and removed the following fall due to severe winter weather in the harbor. The current approach will reduce the amount of labor required each year. 

Local contractor, BIDCO Marine Group, of Grand Island, was awarded a $182,500 contract to build the two nesting structures. Construction work began in early April. 

The Niagara Ecological Standing Committee, composed of local groups and governmental agencies, helped NYPA identify and prioritize this HIP and other opportunities along the Niagara River. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers granted authorization for this project in September; the HIP has also been approved by DEC and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Work on additional habitat projects will continue in the coming months and years as part of NYPA’s relicensing commitments. 

A 50-year license for the Niagara Power Project, issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, took effect on Sept. 1, 2007. Provisions of the license and a comprehensive settlement agreement include a range of benefits for Western New York, including environmental improvements, recreational enhancements, new power allocations from the Niagara project, funding to support the Niagara River Greenway, a college scholarship program for Tuscarora students, and other annual and one-time payments serving local communities. 

NYPA’s 2,441,000-kilowatt Niagara project, which began operation in 1961, is the state’s largest generator, producing clean, low-cost hydropower that is linked to more than 40,000 jobs in Western New York. 

More information on common terns is available on DEC’s website at
See follow-up photo and caption of project's success.


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.   For more information,

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