A proposed hydroelectric project in Moriah has Tom Scozzafava thinking big.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Moriah,” the supervisor said. “The town of Moriah hasn’t had a break since the mines closed in 1971. This could be it.”
The project, which could become reality starting in 2015, could create 100 jobs during construction and up to 10 permanent full time jobs when finished.
The biggest benefit for Moriah, though, could be a dramatic increase in the town tax base. Moriah’s total assessment is now $211 million, Scozzafava said, and the proposed project totals $264.1 million
“This will be significant,” Scozzafava said. “It will lower taxes for everyone.
“We’ve had a stagnant tax base since the mines left,” he said. “We were a one-horse town and that horse left when the mines closed. Republic Steel and Witherbee-Sherman paid most of the property taxes and took care of most of the infrastructure in town. When they left that burden fell on our residents.”
Increased property assessment would not only aid town taxpayers, the supervisor said, but Moriah Central School and Essex County tax payers as well.
The “Mineville Pumped Storage Project” would be constructed by Moriah Hydro Corp., a subsidiary of Albany Engineering on land owned by the town near its trash transfer station. It’s a private venture and must be approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. If the project gets approval, the company will lease the land from the town.
Jim Besha, CEO of Albany Engineering, said his firm is now finalizing its application for the Mineville project and expects to submit it to the FERC this spring.
“We’re hopeful the project will be licensed in 2014,” Besha said. “We’d like to start construction in 2015. That’s being optimistic.”
Construction is expected to take 30 months.
The “closed loop” project would pump water from the Old Bed, New Bed, Bonanza and Harmony mines, about 4,000 feet below the surface, to an upper level reservoir. The water would then be released through turbines, falling back into the mines, to generate electricity.
Scozzafava said the project is environmentally-friendly, using the same water over and over while not producing any pollution.
“It’s clean energy,” he said. “There’s no waste.”
Each pump-generator can put out 260 megawatts of power, which would feed through underground cables to a National Grid high-voltage 115-kilovolt line.
Most of the project would be constructed underground. There would be a 100 square feet building on the surface.
A much larger building would be needed during the construction period to house equipment and supplies. Once construction is complete, Besha said, that building would be donated to the town.
Scozzafava said that building could be used as a town highway garage. A new highway garage could cost $2 million, the supervisor said, so the possibility of having one donated is exciting.
“That would be a tremendous help to the town and taxpayers,” Scozzafava said.
Besha believes the Mineville project will become reality, but he urges people to patient. The project was first proposed in 1990, he said, and has been in the planning stages since 2005.
“It’s a very large project and a very complicated project,” Besha said. “Everyone agrees it’s a good idea; that this is the right time to pursue it. I’m very optimistic, but you can’t count on anything until it’s finished.”
The project is fitting for the town of Moriah, Besha said.
“It’s really a mining operation,” he said. “Almost all the work will be below ground. Moriah is known for its mining history.”
Albany Engineering has several other hydroelectric projects in New York.
“We do just hydroelectric projects,” Besha said. “It’s highly-specialized work.”