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Oswego Common Council expected to vote on power company's regulation of Oswego River

Gino Geruntino
WRVO News File Photo
Oswego City Hall (file photo)

The Oswego Common Council is expected to vote tonight on a resolution taking away Brookfield Renewable Power's right to regulate an area of the Oswego River near a hydropower dam it operates. Third Ward City Councilor Michael Todd says if the resolution is successful, it could also help the city address problems with the company's use of warning sirens for fishermen that are causing residents to complain.

"My intent is that this first step, just like in any step, will create a situation where Brookfield wakes up," Todd said. "If they don't wake up, start coming to the table and mitigating the siren problem, then I'm going to seek outside bids to run our power plants."

Todd says the sirens around Brookfield's Varick Hydropower Dam annoy residents because they are loud and frequently go off. During a committee meeting last week, councilors said they've received calls from residents that rent property near the facility say their tenants, some of whom work 12-hour shifts at Novelis and Nine Mile Point, are unable to rest because of how often the sirens go off.

Todd also says the company is overstepping its boundaries by threatening fishermen in the river who are there fishing legally.

"Right now, at the peak of the run, it should be packed in there, and it's not," Todd explained. "We've probably seen a 75 to 80 percent decrease in the number of fishermen that are down there on that river over the last four years."

Todd says years ago, the river would be lined with fishermen casting over each other to catch salmon and other fish. Now, this section of the river is attracting few anglers, and has hurt hotels, restaurants and tackle shops that would normally be full this time of year.

Although the council agrees that Brookfield is wrong in regards to its control of that section of the river, some councilors say the sirens themselves are not under the company's control. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, oversees Brookfield's sirens. Oswego lawmakers recently met with a FERC representative who has made new recommendations, but Todd says it could take a while for changes to occur.

The councilor says he doesn't expect tonight's vote to be unanimous and believes it could be a 4-3 or 5-2 decision.

A call to Brookfield Renewable Power was not returned.