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State Pulling Out All Stops To Get Glynn Site Ready

By Johnny Destino

James Glynn crafted a sweetheart deal with Gov. Cuomo, but time is of the essence.
The site where Glynn hopes to build new docks.
Maid of the Mist Corp.’s rendering of the proposed docks at the site of the old Schoellkopf Power Plant.
Chris Glynn thanked the governor for his generosity (with taxpayers’ money).
The rare Smooth Cliffbrake grows on Glynn's hoped-for dock site.

Time is of the essence, if the new sweetheart deal for the Maid of the Mist is going to be in effect next year.

And if not, the Maid may have to shut down and let Hornblower Cruises and Events take its place. Things are moving behind the scenes, impelled by a “haste makes Glynn wealthy” philosophy that is marvelous to behold.

It is not normal to see government agencies cutting through red tape and hurdling laws and regulations to assist private companies such as Glynn’s. And all in an effort to keep his low-rent boat deal afloat for 30 more years.

The New York Power Authority (NYPA) pulled together and recently submitted a 204-page document to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) seeking ultra-fast approval to transfer their land for the Maid of the Mist project.

NYPA is required to give FERC “prior notice” of their intent to convey use of the Old Schoellkopf Power Plant for Glynn’s docks, and NYPA is seeking “expedited consideration” of their proposal.

When the Maid of the Mist lost their Canadian license to Hornblower Yachts last year, they also lost access to their only existing fueling and winter storage site at the base of the falls.

The NYPA application, prepared by a Washington, D. C., law firm on NYPA’s behalf, provides the most detailed information yet regarding the Glynn family's plans to construct new docking facilities on the U.S. side.

The Maid's license to use the Ontario facility expires on Dec. 31, which means if they have no storage on the U. S. side by November, they will not have a place to store their boats for the winter. This means immediate action is necessary to get construction going on the site by the end of March.
If it should happen that they are unable to fully complete construction by April 2014, and have no capability to fuel, service, and conduct boat tours on the U.S. side, then they would be in violation of their contract and could, despite Gov. Cuomo's guardianship of the Glynn family, forfeit their right to the license.

Gov. Cuomo has already decided to forgo a bidding process, giving the monopoly to Glynn at a rental price that is about one-fifth of what Hornblower is paying Canada. Hornblower CEO Terry MacRae has said numerous times now that his company was prepared to offer similar terms for the American concession.

Gov. Cuomo not only saved the Maid of the Mist from potential competitors, but in doing so, gave up more than $100 million in rent that New York taxpayers should have received through an open bidding process. Will it ever be known what Glynn has done in return for this gift of the taxpayer's money?

But that was not all. Cuomo, in ordering NYPA to give up the old Schoellkopf Power Plant site for Glynn’s use to install the docks and fuel pumps, exposed the sole-source provider argument both sides relied on for 40 years to be nothing more than a sham to avoid competitive bidding. As soon as the Maid of the Mist lost their Canadian license, wonder upon wonder, it was suddenly feasible to construct a U.S. facility.

Confirming that Maid President Christopher Glynn was not being overly dramatic when he effusively thanked Gov. Cuomo for saving his family’s business, the recently filed NYPA document reveals that “In order for MaidCo to remain in business, its boats must be removed from the water to prevent damage or destruction from ice. These boats cannot be moved downstream because of the presence of substantial rapids. Thus, MaidCo will require access to another winter storage, refueling, and maintenance facility. To enable the benefits of MaidCo’s operations to continue, NYPA, OPRHP, and MaidCo have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) pursuant to which MaidCo proposes to construct and operate a new winter storage, maintenance, and refueling facility on Project lands.”
So now that they are moving heaven and earth to get Glynn accommodated by this November to get his boats out of the freezing waters, will they be following all the normal and proper procedures? Or will the onerous laws and regulations forced upon everyone else be “expedited” away for this favored private company?

Confirming the Reporter’s previous concerns that corners may be cut in order to save Glynn, the document outlines that “The total construction time for the proposed facility is estimated to be about 18 months. However, MaidCo’s boats need to be removed from the water by mid-November in order to prevent ice damage. The estimated time to complete construction of the facility components necessary to accomplish that end is about eight months. Thus, NYPA requests that the Commission expeditiously complete its review (in order to allow) NYPA (to) authorize the proposed facility to proceed.”

In other words, is the state asking the federal government to hurry up and fast track the normal environmental protections and studies in order to get Glynn safely in place to make his millions?

Based on this expedited timetable, Glynn will need to start construction this month. That means there will not be enough time to perform a proper environmental impact study of what is very likely the contaminated site of the former Schoellkopf Power Station.

Any contaminants that may be on the site and likely disturbed by the construction process will be almost altogether ignored in order to meet the tight timeline.

And for those who would otherwise seek to keep the natural and wild landscape in the gorge from being disturbed, NYPA has conceded that their plans are likely to aesthetically diminish the surrounding scenery, but attempt to put a positive “pro Glynn” spin on it nonetheless.

The reports states, “Because the proposed facility will be located at the base of the Gorge below the Discovery Center, it will be visible from the overlook viewing area adjacent to the Discovery Center….NYPA anticipates that OPRHP will find that it does not detract significantly from the current viewing experience and may be a point of interest to sightseers.” What could be more interesting and appealing to look at than a loading dock!

Another area of concern for those involved in this project is the presence of a threatened member of the fern family. In a clear case of the fox being allowed to watch the fern-house, “MaidCo conducted a review of the area for federal and state listed rare, threatened, and endangered (RTE) species and identified the presence of Smooth Cliffbrake [not to be confused with the Purple-stemmed Cliffbrake].

Buffalo Niagara RIVERKEEPER stated in its response to Part I of the SEQR Process that “This plant species is listed as imperiled in the State Heritage Ranking system and the site is documented as one of only two locations within the Niagara River gorge where Cliffbrake is found.

As goes the fern, so goes the taxpayers’ money – down the gorge.

All of this to accommodate Glynn, so he can pay far less than fair market rent.

Meanwhile, Hornblower is prepared to assume operations on both sides, guaranteeing no interruption of service, either permanently or temporarily until a fair bid process is undertaken. This bid process, by the way, would have been expected to bring New York taxpayers at least $100 million more over the course of the lease.

Up and down state government the rush is on and yet, somehow, no one has paused to stop and ask, "Why?"



Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr. www.niagarafallsreporter.com

Mar05 , 2013