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The Niagara Power Project turns 50

LEWISTON -- A small army of men and machines moved into Niagara Falls and Lewiston half a century ago to build the $720 million Niagara Power Project that forever changed the face of the lower Niagara River gorge and ignited unending debate over the project itself, the allocation of electricity and the project's legacy.

As remembered in today's Buffalo News Niagara Weekend section, Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller flipped a symbolic red-handled switch at 11:35 a.m. on Feb. 10, 1961, that formally put into service the largest water-driven power complex in the free world.

The governor said it was a "great and exciting moment in the history of the state," as power from the Niagara Gorge at Lewiston went into a high-voltage transmission line and almost immediately was consumed in homes, farms and industries of the region.

Were you there when that army of men and machines dug into the rock wall of the gorge to build the Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant and its associated Lewiston Pump Generating Station?

Did you work on the project that channelled millions of gallons of water beneath the City of Niagara Falls to fill the huge reservoir that flooded out part of the Tuscarora Indian Reservation?

Do you remember those heady days when the state's "master builder," Robert Moses, was building expressways, housing projects, parks, hydroelectric projects and so many other innovations that endure to this day?

How about sharing some of those memories with us? Did the power project change your life? Did it live up to the expectation of providing vast amounts of low-cost electricity to the Niagara Frontier? How would you like to see the power that flows from the plant during the next half-century -- and the money it brings to the New York Power Authority -- put to use?

 -- News Niagara Reporter Richard E. Baldwin


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