The Seneca Nation Council voted unanimously March 12 to hire the Ridge Policy Group, founded by former Homeland Security secretary and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge and his former chiefs of staff Mark Campbell and Mark Holman, and the Greenlee Partners LLC. The Ridge Policy Group is a bi-partisan, full service government affairs and issue management group with nearly 30 years of hands-on experience with legislative, regulatory and administrative agencies on the local, state and federal level, according to its web site. Greenlee Partners LLC is a full service lobbying and business strategies firm with offices in Washington, D.C., Harrisburg, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, according to its web site. Both firms, based in Harrisburg, PA., were selected to begin work immediately on political outreach, legislative matters and advocacy efforts in northwest Pennsylvania.
The Kinzua Dam is located in the northwest area in Warren, PA. The Seneca Nation filed application documents with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission at the end of November for the license to operate the Seneca Pumped Storage Project at Kinzua Dam. The relicensing process takes five years.
Seneca Nation President Robert Odawi Porter issued a statement announcing the firms’ appointments.
“I am extremely pleased to announce that the Seneca Nation has retained the Harrisburg firms—the Ridge Policy Group and Greenlee Partners—as part of our Pennsylvania-focused efforts to build the strongest application to win the license to operate the hydropower facility at Kinzua Dam,” Porter said. “The Seneca Nation is undertaking every effort to ensure that we have every possible angle effectively covered and this includes making Pennsylvania officials, leaders and residents aware of the many facets of our proposed project. We are honored to now be working with both the Ridge Firm and Greenlee Partners, who together will lend a tremendous amount of political insight and expertise to what is one of the most important projects the Seneca Nation has undertaken in years.”
The Ridge Policy Group and Greenlee Partners will focus efforts generating awareness of the merits of the Seneca Nation’s application to operate the Seneca Pumped Storage Project and the beneficial impact the proposed project will have on northwest Pennsylvania.
Ridge Policy Group partner, Mark Campbell, a native of Warren, PA and a former congressional and gubernatorial chief of staff for Gov. Ridge said the Ridge Policy Group is honored to have been selected by the Seneca Nation Council.
“We look forward to helping win approval for a proposal that will bring tremendous economic benefits to northwestern Pennsylvania.”
Porter said the nation believes its case for the license will be “fortified by the additional economic benefits we propose for the northwest Pennsylvania area.”
When Seneca announced its application in November, Porter said the nation’s goal was to provide a better quality of life for Seneca people and also to stimulate and promote the region.
“We have many non Native neighbors and communities. We’ve been a long, long time in this area and we think as the license holder we can do a much better job of providing development opportunities for the people in our area,” Porter said.
The Kinzua Dam was authorized by Congress with the Flood Control Acts of 1936 and 1938 and built by the Army Corps of Engineers between 1960 and its opening in 1965. The purpose of the $108 million dam was flood control and pollution flushing, but in 1970 the federal government also gave away the right to generate hydropower to private, for-profit utility companies – now estimated at $15 million in profits annually. The dam impounds the Allegheny River, part of a watershed area twice the size of the state of Rhode Island -- 2,180 square miles. The reservoir flooded 10,000 acres of Seneca land, displaced more than 800 Seneca people, inundated graves and brought about the burning of more than 160 Seneca homes, farms, churches, schools and sacred ceremonial places.
The Seneca Nation of Indians is one of the six nations of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy. Seneca citizens continue to live on the nation’s aboriginal lands in Western New York. The Senecas’ five sovereign territories comprise 31,095 acres along the Allegheny River; 22,011 acres along Cattaraugus Creek near Lake Erie known as the Cattaraugus Territory; one square mile in Cuba, called the Oil Spring Territory; 30 acres in Niagara Falls, and 9 acres in Buffalo. The Allegany Territory contains the City of Salamanca within its boundaries. The nation today operates a $1.1 billion economy that employs more than 6,000 people.