From the Albany Times Union 7/13/00--Agreement pleases all
- Water use pact adds to recreation options and environmental controls,
Competing interests in the Sacandaga watershed came together like its
many feeder streams Wednesday to hail an agreement providing the
Capital Region with a mix of power generation, flood control and
The pact calls for higher and more consistent water levels along the
system to improve boating and fishing opportunities.
Whitewater recreational activities also will be expanded by the
improvement of access points and the construction of new ones.
Under the agreement, Orion will be relicensed by the Federal Energy
Regulatory Commission through 2033 to operate its five hydroelectric
generating plants in the watershed.
"We retain a significant amount of generating capacity, which will be
important in the emerging competitive energy market," said Janet
Audunson, general manager of Orion Power New York.
Gov. George Pataki, described it as a landmark settlement. "This
agreement will enable new York families to enjoy Great Sacandaga Lake
for years to come while ensuring we protect the environment within
this important watershed."
Property owners near the lake have long pushed for higher and more
consistent water levels during the recreational season, whereas
hydroelectric and whitewater rafting interests pushed for more
of water from the reservoir.
The pact details goals for release of the billions of gallons of
in Great Sacandaga Lake as it emerges from the reservoir past a
of hydroelectric dams and wends its way through Hadley to its
confluence with the Hudson River.
The immediate catalyst for reaching a settlement was the need to
the federally regulated dam licenses of Orion Power New York over the
operation of the five generating facilities located along the
Sacandaga and Upper Hudson Rivers.
The agreement calls for a mile-long section of the Hudson River below
the Sherman Island project to be transformed into a more productive
aquatic habitat by guaranteeing waterflow year-round to an area
previously left dry because flow had been diverted to power-plant
Aquatic habitat in a separate three-mile section of the lower
Sacandaga River also will be restored and recreational fishing access
enhanced by guaranteeing steady minimum water flow.
"It's very pleasing to see that you can have a settlement where you
have all the stakeholders come to the table to be able to reach
agreement on a variety of interests," said David Stillwell,
representing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
He was particularly pleased by a provision that decreased the size of
the mesh near power plant intake pipes to avoid sucking in smaller
river fish. He also said there would be openings near plants to allow
fish to exit safely to the river below.
"Everyone gave a little," said John Duncan of the Sacandaga Outdoor
Center in Hadley, who had fought to maximize regular and extensive
water releases to boost white-water rafting, tubing and kayaking.
The five plants are: E.J. West (20 megawatts) and Stewarts Bridge (30
megawatts) on the Sacandaga River, and Spier Falls (47 megawatts),
Sherman Island (29 megawatts) and Feeder Dam (5 megawatts) on the