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USE OF FUNDS DISCUSSED IN RELICENSING

About 45 local environmental groups are scrambling to figure out how they want to spend an undetermined amount of money from the relicensing of the New York Power Authority's Niagara Power Project.

Negotiations for the funds -- to aid Niagara County -- will begin Aug. 11, but stakeholders and activists at a meeting last week weren't concerned with knowing how much they could receive.

"It's about, 'What do we want to do to make our lives better?' " said Julie O'Neill, executive director of the Friends of the Buffalo Niagara Rivers, "not fitting our goals to a set amount of money or another agency's goals."

The organization coordinated a two-day meeting in Niagara Falls, attracting about 75 people.

The myriad environmental issues facing the region made for tense discussions about which projects money should be channeled to.

The authority is legally responsible for mitigating its impacts on the environment, and most studies show it has made its mark below the watershed escarpment, said Julie O'Neill.

Plenty of stakeholders were on hand to protest any renewal plan that doesn't include northern Niagara County.

"I don't think people who aren't from around this area understand what effect this plant has made on the area," said Tony Wagner of the Buffalo Audubon Society.

Authority funds are set to go to three areas: cultural or socioeconomic impacts on communities; direct ecological impact mitigation, such as habitat improvement; and a proposed greenway to run from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario, said O'Neill.

Despite some differences of opinions, a consensus on goals and terms for the authority deal were set forth by the end of the meeting. "Robert Moses Parkway" were the most unpopular words at the meeting. A consensus on the need to demolish it was perhaps the most supported long-term goal.

Other goals garnering support include: protecting natural resources, improving water and habitat quality and expanding ecotourism. existing educational and research pro

e-mail: gnorheim@buffnews.com

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