The New York Power Authority Trustees on Jan. 31 approved a $1.07 million contract award to LDC Construction Co. Inc. of Grand Island, to undertake efforts to protect the Motor Island shoreline from erosion and to enhance the ability of fish and wildlife to access the island's habitat areas.
Motor Island is a six-acre island located off the southern end of Grand Island in the upper Niagara River in Erie County and managed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation as a wildlife preserve. Due to severe environmental forces, including high water velocity, wave action and ice scour, the island has experienced several decades of shoreline erosion, jeopardizing its survival.
As part of the 2007 federal relicensing of the Niagara Power Project, NYPA agreed to undertake and complete eight habitat improvement projects on the Niagara River by 2015, including the Motor Island HIP. The improvement projects include the Power Authority's partnering with the DEC on the restoration and enhancement measures.
"The New York Power Authority remains committed to supporting Western New York with important habitat improvement projects that will enhance the local environment and improve aquatic presence and wildlife associated with the Niagara River," said D. Patrick Curley, a NYPA trustee. "The contract award to an Erie County company for the Motor Island improvement project also underscores how NYPA's carrying out of ecological and other relicensing commitments can bolster local companies and jobs and contribute to initiatives under Gov. Cuomo for spurring Western New York's economy."
"The Power Authority's responsible stewardship of the Niagara Power Project includes our carrying out of commitments under the project's relicensing for protecting fish and wildlife at designated areas within the Niagara River corridor," said Gil C. Quiniones, NYPA president and chief executive officer. "The habitat improvement projects on the Niagara River, including the Motor Island shoreline protection, are well thought out endeavors for restoring vital fish and wildlife habitats. We're looking forward to the contribution that a local company, LDC Construction, will make in supporting the Motor Island initiative."
The purpose of the Motor Island HIP is to create gradual shoreline transitions for optimal aquatic, wetland and wildlife functions. The improvement project will include the removal of an abandoned tennis court and a concrete block shoreline barrier and the regrading of the shoreline to create a protected pool habitat that incorporates gradual transitions from the aquatic ecosystem up to the newly created wetland pools, riverbank and upland habitat zones at key locations.
Other work at the site will include the application of topsoil and the planting of hundreds of native, emergent marsh plants, riparian and upland shrubs and trees, and seeding. Additional measures include the installation of protective low-profile berms off shore and stabilization of a deteriorating wood crib wall, which had been built nearly a century ago along the perimeter to bolster the eastern, southern and western shorelines.
LDC, which submitted the lowest qualified bid in response to NYPA's 2011 Request for Quotation, has significant experience working in marine environments like Motor Island's, including wetland restoration and creation work along the shoreline of nearby islands in the upper Niagara River. LDC recently completed the Little Beaver Island wetland restoration HIP for the Power Authority.
The development of the Motor Island HIP was undertaken through the guidance and direction of the Greenway Ecological Standing Committee. The ESC, which oversees the implementation of NYPA's relicensing-related HIPs and also manages a $16.2 million Habitat Enhancement and Restoration Fund for additional ecological projects, includes representatives of NYPA, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Tuscarora Nation, the Tonawanda Band of Senecas, the Seneca Nation of Indians, the DEC and the Niagara Relicensing Environmental Coalition.
Other HIPs undertaken by the Power Authority include the enhancement of Strawberry Island and the restoration of Frog Island, wetland restoration on Beaver Island, control of invasive species in Tifft Marsh in Lackawanna and Buckhorn Marsh on Grand Island, osprey and common tern nesting along the Niagara River and the installation of fish habitats on the bottom of the upper Niagara River.
The estimated cost of the eight HIPs that NYPA committed to under the Niagara project's relicensing is about $12 million. The Power Authority also pledged to provide additional funds for operation and maintenance of the HIPs for the 50-year term of the hydroelectric project's 2007-issued license.
As of mid-January 2012, NYPA has provided over $173.2 million in benefits to Western New York in support of its operating license for the Niagara project. These benefits include monetary payments to settlement partners consisting of local municipalities, state agencies, an Indian nation, school districts, and committees supporting the development of the Niagara River Greenway. The amount also includes payments by NYPA for the construction of recreational projects and ecological enhancements related to the project license. In addition to monetary benefits, 32 megawatts of low-cost hydropower have been allocated to several settlement partners saving the recipients as much as 75 percent of the cost of energy.