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Record rain means record profit for Watertown’s hydroelectric plant

Tom Magnarelli
The Black River in Watertown.

A record amount of rainfall this year has been one of the contributing factors to Lake Ontario’s high water levels and the damage along its shoreline. But all the rain has at least one benefit for the city of Watertown.

When it comes to Watertown’s hydroelectric plant, Water Superintendent Vicky Murphy has a simple way of saying why more rain is good.

“We generate more power, which means the city makes more money,” Murphy said.

That’s because Watertown powers various government buildings off its hydroelectric plant on the Black River and sells the excess power to National Grid. May was Watertown’s best money-making month for the plant in the past six years bringing in more than $700,000.

"July of 2016 we started quite slow," Murphy said. "But from December or November on, we started doing much better and of course the spring has been really good."

But Murphy said there is one good reason why they need it to stop raining eventually.

“We do need to do some maintenance on two of the turbines," Murphy said. "It’s been scheduled since last July. We do need to see a break in it so that we can do the maintenance.”  

That’s been difficult with Watertown breaking rainfall records in June. But at least the city can find an upside, and a profit, out of this soaked season.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.