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New York Power Authority President Kessel Announces Start of Site Preparation at Buffalo River Parcel for Ice Boom Storage and New Neighborhood Park

Michael Saltzman

Photos and Captions

(Video Footage of Ice Boom Link to video)

September 25, 2009


BUFFALO—New York Power Authority (NYPA) President and Chief Executive Officer Richard M. Kessel was joined by Congressman Brian Higgins, State Assemblyman Mark J.F. Schroeder and other officials today to break ground on the new permanent warm-weather storage site for the Lake Erie-Niagara River Ice Boom, with the site also to serve as the location for a new neighborhood park that NYPA will develop. In undertaking site preparation work for the ice boom storage, which is the first phase of the overall project, the Power Authority has entered into a $5.9 million contract with a Western New York firm, subject to the approval of the NYPA Board of Trustees. 

It is anticipated that the new storage site, a 10.3-acre parcel in Buffalo’s Old First Ward, will be ready to store the ice boom beginning next spring.  That will free up the current storage site at the Buffalo Outer Harbor for the crucial efforts to revitalize the city waterfront.     

 “Today’s groundbreaking is the culmination of considerable and collaborative efforts to transform the Buffalo Outer Harbor into a spectacular ‘green space’ for community benefit by finding a new suitable location for storing the ice boom,” Kessel said. “Our success in finding a new site means that we’ll be able to begin preparations to transfer the existing 14-acre storage site on Fuhrmann Boulevard to the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. [ECHDC] next year, after making the necessary modifications to the new site.” 

In July, NYPA purchased the newly designated storage site, at 41 Hamburg St., from Killian Bulk Transport, which had used the parcel as a truck repair and dispatch yard.  The purchase fulfilled a commitment the Power Authority made during the relicensing of its Niagara Power Project to diligently seek to relocate the ice boom to an alternate site.  

Kessel credited a number of people as playing a crucial role in leading to NYPA’s acquisition of the new storage site.  They included Congressman Higgins; Assemblyman Schroeder; Mayor Brown; Thomas Dee, ECHDC president; and Peg Overdorf, executive director, Valley Community Association, representing Buffalo’s Old First Ward neighborhood, where the new site is located.     

“For all of us who have been involved with this process, one of the most important priorities was to ensure the relocation would be beneficial to the community where the ice boom would be stored,” Kessel said.  “With that in mind, we’re going to develop a beautiful 1.3-acre park on the northwest section of the new storage site, making it a source of pride for the city’s Old First Ward.  In doing so, we’ll be playing a pivotal role in creating ‘green space’ at two Buffalo locations from our acquisition of the Hamburg Street property and through the transfer of the existing storage site on Fuhrmann Boulevard to the Harbor Development

Kessel said that he would ask the Power Authority Board of Trustees at their next regularly scheduled monthly meeting on Tuesday in Rochester to approve a nearly $5.9 million contract with a West Seneca firm, UCC Constructors, for the site development of the Hamburg Street parcel.  UCC was the low bidder of some seven firms submitting competing proposals for the work, which will initially involve clearing and grading of sections of the property and construction of a new seawall for protecting the shoreline.   

NYPA expects the overall ice boom initiative, including the park development, to cost nearly $24 million.  This also includes the more than $1 million purchase price for the property, and costs related to detailed engineering, design and permitting, and construction and installation work.         

The new park, including a recreational boathouse facility and a canoe/kayak launch, will be developed by the end of 2011.  Other features will include picnic tables, numerous benches and a boardwalk promenade along the river’s edge, with 1900-style lighting, in consideration of the Old First Ward’s heritage and culture.  

NYPA examined more than 25 potential sites along Lake Erie and its tributaries before identifying the Hamburg Street parcel on the Buffalo River as meeting the requirements for the storage and maintenance of the ice boom, including water access for installing and removing the boom in the winter and spring. The existing structures on the property will be demolished and a new workshop facility will be constructed.  In addition, a boat rail system will be installed at the site for facilitating the removal from the water of NYPA vessels, such as the Authority’s two icebreakers, for maintenance and repairs.      

The efforts toward the transfer of the current ice boom storage site at 175 Fuhrmann Boulevard to ECHDC follow through on a commitment that NYPA made under a 2006 settlement agreement with Buffalo and Erie County to seek to relocate the ice boom to an alternate site. The agreement also provided for $279 million of NYPA funding and other support for revitalizing the Buffalo waterfront, developing the Erie County Greenway and promoting economic development.   

Stretched across the mouth of the Niagara River at Lake Erie, the ice boom reduces the amount of ice that would otherwise flow from the lake into the river. This helps to prevent ice build-up downstream at the water intakes of the Power Authority’s Niagara Power Project, allowing water to keep flowing for power production. It also reduces shoreline erosion and destruction to property along the shoreline of the river. 

The boom, which is jointly owned by the Power Authority and Ontario Power Generation, consists of 22 pontoon strings, each 500 feet long. The equipment covers a distance of 1.7 miles, with its use determined by guidelines of the International Joint Commission. Under those provisions, the boom is installed in Lake Erie on or about Dec. 16 of each year and removed in early spring.   


Congressman Brian Higgins said: “With this agreement we accomplish a number of wins for this community. We are opening up prime outer harbor property ripe for development and economic opportunity, putting the future of this land back in the hands of our local waterfront team, locating the ice boom on a new site suitable for easy transfer into the lake, and creating an entirely new waterfront public destination along the Buffalo River.  This is yet another project that builds on the momentum we are seeing along Buffalo’s waterfront.”   

Assemblyman Mark Schroeder said: "This is an exciting project that will provide some much-needed greenspace to the banks of the Buffalo River. The residents of the Old First Ward deserve this great new park, which will provide first-class recreational opportunities while embracing the neighborhood's historical roots." 

Byron Brown, Mayor of the City of Buffalo, said: “I want to thank the Power Authority and Richard Kessel for the effort they have made to relocate the ice boom, which will provide for continued development of Buffalo’s waterfront. I also want to thank NYPA for improving the recreational quality of the area by including a new park for the benefit of the entire community.” 

Thomas P. Dee, President of the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation, said:  “This is a win-win announcement for the waterfront and the people of Western New York. Not only will the current ice boom storage site become available for integration into the harbor corporation’s long-term outer harbor development vision, but another positive public access project along the Buffalo River will take shape as a result.”  

Tim Kennedy, Erie County Legislator, said: "The redevelopment of this land along the Buffalo River at Hamburg Street is another demonstration of the vision of a newly-created waterfront becoming a reality. This is a wonderful example of all levels of government working together to make our community stronger."  

David A. Franczyk, Fillmore District Council Member, Common Council President, said: “I especially would like to applaud the efforts of the Valley Community Center in partnering with the elected officials and government stakeholders in the interest of beautifying our great waterfront.”  

Peg Overdorf, executive director of the Valley Community Association, said: “The community has a vision for greater public access and to create destinations on the Buffalo River. After many years of decline and neglect, we finally feel change is underway. Under the leadership of Assemblyman Mark Schroeder, the Valley Community Association and its partners negotiated with New York State Power Authority to create one such destination offering public access to the river. Interpretive signage will tell the ‘Ice Boom Story’ and the history of this area and the impact it had on Buffalo’s early development. In viewshed of this park is historic ‘Elevator Alley.’ We are excited with this development and look forward to a continued relationship with our new neighbors, the New York State Power Authority.”  

Julie Barrett O'Neill, Executive Director of the Buffalo Niagara RIVERKEEPER, said: “We are grateful to the Power Authority, Congressman Higgins, Assemblyman Schroeder, Peg Overdorf and all our partners for their hard work in ensuring the Ice Boom’s relocation improves public paddling and fishing access to the Buffalo River. This is an important step towards creating a green, accessible waterfront for the residents of Buffalo. We look forward to the full development of the Buffalo River Greenway trail and park system."

About NYPA:

■    The New York Power Authority 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 New York State and more than 1,400 circuit-miles of transmission lines.  ■    About 75 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,

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