Town Powers Up to STOP NYRI

Town Powers Up to STOP NYRI

Kate Stichnoth

“STOP NYRI” signs and banners are prominent features throughout downtown Hamilton. They adorn everything from front lawns to shop windows to telephone poles. Many uninformed students must be wondering: what’s all the fuss about?

The New York Regional Interconnect, Inc. (NYRI), a privately held special purpose transmission company plans to run 200 miles of 400,000-volt power lines through Central New York, particularly Madison and Chenango counties. According to NYRI’s website, this project will reduce New York’s dependence on gas and oil as well as wholesale oil prices, making for a cleaner environment in New York State.

The planned lines will run through many of the region’s scenic valleys and villages. NYRI’s plan has elicited protests from many citizens in the area.

While the NYRI plan has a number of potential economic and environmental benefits for New York State, opponents say there are several drawbacks as well.

“There are many health and economic concerns,” Director of Upstate Institute and William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of Geography Ellen Kraly said. “The possible effects of the lines’ potent electromagnetic fields are of particular concern,” Kraly added. In addition, opponents are concerned about possible effects on tourism, agriculture and land values that would most likely deplete as a result of the intruding power lines.

“The energy is being delivered downstate to a remote population, not to Central New York. The Upstate region would absorb all the cost with no benefits,” Kraly said.

Stop NYRI, Inc is a coalition of citizens committed to fight the NYRI’s proposed project by informing citizens on its potential negative impacts and by taking political and legal action. Stop NYRI testified at the New York State Senate Energy Committee hearing in Norwich, New York in June and supported several pieces of legislation, including the Bonacic Bill, an eminent domain-related bill that passed last June.

Several community organizations are involved in the Stop NYRI campaign. “Grassroots organization has been increasingly effective,” Kraly said, noting that it is one of the ways in which students can get involved.

In regards to the NYRI issue, Colgate serves as a place where students, faculty and administration can “share and generate information, promote debate and hopefully allow students and faculty to make decisions. Engaging in debate and discussion is an important way for the students to be involved,” Kraly said.

On September 10, the Colgate Outdoor Education Program led a canoe trip to the Nine-Mile Swamp in conjunction with Rogers Environmental Education Center and Stop NYRI to raise awareness of the proposed project. The Nine-Mile Swamp is a wetland area in the Towns of Carrollton, Allegany and Great Valley in Cattaraugus Valley that stands in the path of NYRI’s proposed lines. The voltage towers there would exceed 130 feet in height and would mar the scenery of the Central New York landscape, the plan’s opponents say.

“Students seem to be very interested in getting involved,” Kraly said. When I talk with students I am typically met with enthusiasm and engagement. Students want to develop a sense of place and attachment to the area in which they live.”