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Home arrow Working with Section 106 arrow Section 106 in Action arrow Archive of Prominent Section 106 Cases arrow New York: Athens Generating Project

New York: Construction of the Athens
Generating Project

Agency: New York District, U. S. Army Corps of Engineers

Criteria for ACHP Involvement:
  • This project will have an adverse effect on Olana State Historic Site, a National Historic Landmark, and numerous other historic sites in the Hudson River Valley (Criterion 1).
  • The project has generated substantial public interest (Criterion 3).


Recent Developments

On May 16, 2001, Chairman Slater signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for the proposed issuance of a permit by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) for the Athens Generating Project, thus concluding Section 106 review for the project. Her signature followed that of the Corps, the New York State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO), and the Athens Generating Company, LP, the project sponsor.

The agreement is now circulating among the other consulting parties for signature. Those electing to concur in the agreement will be provided the opportunity to review various design plans developed pursuant to the agreement.

The MOA sets forth a range of measures that would be placed as special conditions on any Corps permit. These measures include subsequent review of a variety of design plans for the facility and site development, use of dry cooling technology to reduce visual impacts of vapor plumes, and a plan for plume monitoring.

Under the terms of the MOA, Athens Generating Company will establish a Regional and Community Historic Preservation Benefit Plan that will provide $2 million for enhancement of historic properties (with $750,000 for Olana and $250,000 for the Thomas Cole House), a $250,000 grant to benefit preservation in the Village of Athens, and a $275,000 fund for off-site landscaping to screen the facility from historic properties. The MOA also provides for development of a cultural resource management plan to protect identified archeological resources and includes broad reporting provisions.


Background

Athens Generating Company, an affiliate of Pacific Gas & Electric National Energy Group, LLC, proposes to construct a 1,080 megawatt, natural gas-fired electric generat- ing facility in the Town of Athens, New York. The project would require intake and discharge from the Hudson River, located about two miles west of the project site. The intake and discharge structures, along with the permanent loss of slightly less than one acre of wetlands and stream channel, require issuance of a permit by the Corps’ New York District under Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 and Section 404 of the Clean Water Act.

The project has generated a great deal of public interest and controversy. This area of New York State is one of great beauty and historic significance. The Hudson Valley National Heritage Area was established in 1996, and in 1998 the Hudson River was designated an American Heritage River. About four miles south of the project site is Olana, the Moorish-Italianate villa built between 1870-1889 by Frederic E. Church, Hudson River School painter.

Olana State Historic Site, Hudson, New York

 

Olana State Historic Site,
Hudson, New York
(photo courtesy of The Olana Partnership)

 

 

 

The 250-acre estate is a State historic site and a National Historic Landmark, with a remarkably rich historic character and an outstanding viewshed encompassing the Hudson River Valley. (For more information on Olana, visit www.olana.org.)

Much of the groundwork for review under Section 106 was laid by consultation between the Athens Generating Company and the New York SHPO under the State siting process administered under State law. Through these and subsequent discussions involving the Corps, it was determined that the project would have visual adverse effects on historic properties within a five-mile radius of the project, including Olana. The Corps notified ACHP of its adverse effect finding in January 2001, and in February ACHP accepted the Corps’ invitation to participate in consultation.

Intensive consultation led up to development of the MOA. The Corps responded in the affirmative to all organizations and individuals who requested consulting party status. Twenty-three such parties participated, including the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Scenic Hudson, Inc., the Olana Partnership, the Preservation League of New York State, and a number of owners of property located within the area of potential effects for the project. The terms of the MOA evolved substantially following meetings in Albany among the consulting parties in March and April 2001.


Policy Highlights

Both the Corps and the Athens Generating Company entered discussions under Section 106 with hopes of capitalizing on the consultation process to establish a comprehensive mitigation package. Treatment of visual impacts within such a large area of potential effects presented the consulting parties with a number of challenges.

The Corps approached the process with openness and took all reasonable steps to further a dialogue during consultation. This, coupled with the company’s willingness to contribute to preservation activities throughout the region, enabled the parties to reach an agreement on how the project would take into account effects to historic properties.

Staff contact: Don Klima


Updated June 6, 2002

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