Tonawanda News

Local News

August 1, 2013

Maid of the Mist suit taken to federal level by group

Tonawanda News — NIAGARA FALLS — A preservation group that has failed to convince state courts to stop the construction of boat docks on the former Schoellkopf Power Station site in the lower Niagara River is bringing its complaint to the federal courts.

The Niagara Preservation Coalition filed a complaint with the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia on July 3, naming The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the National Parks Service and the United States Army Corps of Engineers, along with employees from each agency, as defendants.

The group has had several court actions, including preliminary injunction and a temporary restraining order, dismissed in New York State Supreme Court.

The coalition first raised concerns about boat dock facilities being constructed on the site not long after the plans were announced in December. The docks are being constructed by Maid of the Mist Corp., the company that runs the boat tour attraction at the base of the falls. The company lost the rights to operate the attraction in Ontario beginning in 2014 and along with it access to boat docking facilities where the Maid fleet has been stored during the winter for decades.

The state announced that it would allow Maid of the Mist to use the Scheollkopf site for new docking facilities, with Gov. Andrew Cuomo promoting the project as an enhancement of the site’s historic qualities during a December visit.

Maid of the Mist contractors are in the process of building the docks, reviving an elevator that will provide access to the gorge and making other unspecified “improvements” to the site as part of the $32 million investment the company agreed to as a condition of the agreement.

The coalition claims that the federal agencies rushed the project through to satisfy requests from New York state leaders, according to the complaint.

“The driving force behind the rushed and illegal actions of the defendants was the State of New York’s strong proprietary desire to hurriedly facilitate the operations of a private concession operator, Maid of the Mist Corporation, which is no excuse for the total disregard of applicable federal environmental and historic preservation laws,” the complaint states.

Lawyers for Maid of the Mist, despite not being named as a defendant, have successfully petitioned to change the venue of the case, requesting that the lawsuit play out in federal court in Buffalo.

Contact reporter Justin Sondel at 282-2311, ext. 2257

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