Those with dreams of improving recreation along the Niagara River will be one step closer to seeing millions of dollars in dedicated annual funding later this week.
Parties to settlement agreements with the New York Power Authority in the federal relicensing of its Niagara Power Project will meet Friday in Lewiston.
Their goal is to discuss ways to gain access to funding for projects in the Niagara River Greenway.
"We're confident that this process is going to lead to significant initiatives for enhancing environmental, recreational and other resources along the Niagara River corridor," authority spokesman Michael Saltzman said.
Decisions on what projects get funded and for how much will be made by four standing committees that will control a total of $9 million in annual funding. The pool of allocated funds owed for the next 50 years is projected at $450 million.
The Power Authority is a member of each standing committee.
One-third of the annual funding will be controlled by a committee that includes seven Niagara County entities. Members of the Niagara Power Coalition -- Niagara Falls, Niagara County, the towns of Lewiston and Niagara, as well as the school districts of Niagara Falls, Niagara-Wheatfield and Lewiston-Porter -- will receive $3 million annually.
Coalition Chairman William Ross said his group is continuing to develop its own proposal.
The authority and the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation will also control a $3 million annual allocation, known as the State Parks Greenway Fund.
The city of Buffalo, Erie County and the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy are included on a committee controlling $2 million per year in Greenway funding.
The Niagara River Greenway Ecological Fund, a $1 million annual allotment, will be controlled by a committee that consists of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the state Department of State, the Tuscarora Nation, the Seneca Nation of Indians, the Tonawanda Seneca Nation and the Niagara Relicensing Environmental Coalition.
Power authority officials believe there is flexibility in the draft protocols they proposed, "provided that whatever changes are made are consistent with the applicable relicensing settlement agreements," Saltzman said.
The standing committees, which have previously received copies of the draft protocols from the authority, should begin meeting this fall, he said.
To view the draft protocols, visit http://niagara.nypa.gov.
Friday's 10 a.m. meeting in the Power Vista visitors center at the power project, 5777 Lewiston Road, is open to the public.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued the authority a new 50-year operating license in March. The current license expires Aug. 31.