BY FRANK PARLATO
The New York Power Authority (NYPA) successfully installed the three remaining floating sections of the Lake Erie-Niagara River ice boom on December 28, completing the work for the 2015-2016 season.
The official Lake Erie water temperature on December 28 was 42 degrees F. The ice boom is a steel pontoon structure that keeps the Niagara River free of large chunks of ice. It was installed in the mid 1960’s and is owned by NYPA.
The main purpose of the ice boom is to enrich NYPA since it allows for millions of dollars of additional hydroelectric power generation every year since the river is not obstructed by large chunks of ice. NYPA’s overall profits are largely dependent on the profit it makes from control of the hydropower generated by the Niagara River – which has exceeded $230 million per year.
NYPA’s control of hydropower in the Niagara Region has been criticized by this writer as having a negative impact on the wealth of the region since the inexpensive hydropower produced locally is not used by local residents, who pay among the highest electrical rates in the nation and who get their electrical power mainly from burning coal and other inefficient methods by National Grid – a company owned by investors in England. (Ironic we have the richest natural source of hydropower in the world and we have to buy our power from a company owned by investors in Great Britain.)
Meantime, NYPA delivers our locally produced hydropower to New York City and eight other states. That is right. NYPA controls our locally generated hydropower while local residents get little use of the power.
In 1957, this region, represented by local elected officials, signed a 50 year license with NYPA and then renewed the license in 2007 for another 50 years – a century without control of our hydropower – which gave NYPA control of the hydropower generated on the US side of the Niagara River.
In return NYPA gives a pittance (less than 5% of its profits from the Niagara [Robert Moses] power plant) back to the region in annual payments to several municipalities and grants through its Greenway fund.
To use an analogy to explain the arrangement: Suppose a region grew marvelous apples – red and delicious; they were famous for it. They could get rich from the sale, and healthy from eating these apples – but the people and their children – for 50 years – never tasted the apples or profited from them (unless, of course, they moved away – which many did).
Then these people of this apple growing region and their uniquely inept leaders renewed the license of the “Apple Authority” to have dominion over their apples, and, for another 50 years, they imported far more expensive, but inferior apples, or went without apples, though the orchards were all around them.
And the people remained dead broke. You’d call these people insane, wouldn’t you Meantime the ice boom is in and the people of NYC and eight other states are grateful for our insanity.