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LAWMAKERS EXPECTED TO OK HYDROPOWER DEAL

The Niagara County Legislature is expected to ratify the terms of its share of a $1 billion relicensing settlement with the New York Power Authority when it meets at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

"I have run this by my colleagues, and they're quite accepting of it. We want to nail this deal down while we have it," said Legislator Lee Simonson, R-Lewiston, the Legislature representative on the Niagara Power Coalition.

Under the terms of a proposed new license for the Niagara Power Project, the seven local entities in the coalition will split up allocations of cash and low-cost electricity during the 50-year life of the new license. The current license expires in 2007.

Niagara County will receive 9 megawatts of power each year to use in county-owned buildings, and an annual payment of at least $650,000 a year from the Power Authority with no strings attached.

"It seems to be a fair deal. It was tough, believe me, because everybody wants a bigger piece of the pie," said Minority Leader Dennis F. Virtuoso, D-Niagara Falls. He served on the Power Coalition until Simonson replaced him earlier this year.

"The Power Authority has never paid us anything in lieu of taxes. This is the first time we've ever received any distribution of low-cost power," Simonson said.

However, the electricity isn't a complete gift. "It's not really free. It's 1-cent power (per kilowatt-hour), not the 5-cent power we've been using," Simonson said.

Simonson said Niagara County also will receive a onetime payment of slightly more than $1 million next year, something of a signing bonus.

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