Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

To the Niagara Power Vista this morning, with LCA's 6th Grade class. This is a pretty universal field trip in Western New York, but since I didn't grow up here, I'd never been. When I asked about it, people would roll their eyes, but I like that kind of thing. I've driven past it, of course, a big concrete structure on the edge of the gorge, and I've always thought it would be kind of neat to take the tour, so I was pleased when I was asked to chaperone.

Too bad it is so beat, because the potential is terrific. Unfortunately what the tour consists of is a visit to a fairly sterile visitor's center, resembling a Thruway rest area without the Ben & Jerrys. There are some fairly standard children's science museum grad exhibits about electricity-- you know, cranks you turn to make lights light, that sort of thing, and a big diorama of the Upper and Lower Niagara Rivers, and the facility. I liked that-- you can see the courthouse, and for the first time I understood how the thing works. Living in this part of the world I'm aware of the Falls, and I know there is a lot of electricity generated here, but I was never really clear on the relationship between the two. Come to find out, there isn't one-- the water to run the plant is taken in two and a half miles upriver from the Falls (I knew that, actually), and run through pipes under the City of Niagara Falls over to the powerplant in Lewiston. It would have been a great tour if they showed you the water, and the turbines, and a movie about Robert Moses extending his arm over the Niagara River to produce electricity, but what you get is the demo stuff I've described, a video about not touching wires, and an demonstration with a Van de Graff generator. I mean, c'mon-- you have all kinds of hydropower-- who wants static electricity stuff that Michael Faraday's family found dull?

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