By Michael Ausiello
July 13, 2010 at 05:06 PM EDT

Image Credit: Michael Buckner/WireImage.comCBS is now confirming what was first bandied about yesterday: CSI: NY has tapped Emmy winner Sela Ward to replace departing original cast member Melina Kanakaredes.

Per CBS, Ward will play “an experienced investigator from Washington, D.C., whose work is driven by her empathy for the victim.” She’ll make her first appearance in the season 7 premiere this fall (remember: NY is moving to Fridays at 9 p.m./ET).

“We are delighted to have Sela joining CSI: NY,” gushed exec producer Pam Veasey in a statement. “With the exciting stories planned for season 7, she’ll be a dynamic addition to the cast and the team.”

“I am thrilled to be working with Gary [Sinise] and this terrific group of people,” added Ward.  “I’m a huge fan.”

As reported yesterday, Kanakaredes opted to move on rather than sign a new contract with the show. I’m told, however, that her departure was not related to a pay cut.

Thoughts? Is Ward a worthy successor to Kanakaredes? My opinion: Hell, yes!