TO: Batchellerville Bridge Action Committee Members
FROM: Peter VanAvery
DATE: February 10, 2006

The Hudson River-Black River Regulating District will hold its second meeting to seek public input regarding revisions to its rules and regulations for the permit system at Great Sacandaga Lake from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, February 15 in the auditorium of Northville Central School, 131 South Third Street, Northville.

You'll find the tentative agenda on the District's website at Specific rules to be discussed: 606.37 (3.5' pass/accommodation pathway), 606.46 (work projects on access areas), 606.80 (insurance for commercial permits), 606.81 (conditions for issuance of permits/renewals), 606.95 (permit revocation), 606.96 (notice and hearing), 606.100 (amending/abrogating rules), 606.105 (penalties and construction), 606.109 (saving provision), and 606.110 (effective date). Also on the agenda: the appeal process and fireworks on state land. Time permitting, rules discussed at the first meeting will be revisited.

The third and fourth meetings will deal with permit eligibility issues and permit fees. These meetings will be facilitated by an independent consultant and are tentatively scheduled to begin in March. A fifth meeting will be scheduled for additional public input. If you are unable to attend these meetings, you can download a "Permit System Rules Revision Public Comment Form" from the Regulating District's website at and submit your opinions.

After draft rules are prepared, the District plans to hold a second round of meetings to seek public input. These meetings will be scheduled during the summer months, making it more convenient for permit holders to attend. All of these meetings will be open to the public.

My comments about the first rule-making meeting, held on January 31, are summed up in my statement at the February 6 board meeting. Because of its length, I am sending it to you separately. I appeared to be the only representative of a lake-area organization who participated.

At the February 6 board meeting, Glenn LaFave of Brownville, NY, was named Executive Director. He had served as Acting Executive Director since last August, replacing Richard Lefebvre. Before that, he was administrator of the Black River Area for two years. From 2000 to 2003, he served on the board, appointed by Governor Pataki.

Mr. LaFave carries some baggage from his board service. At its June 3, 2003 meeting, the board unanimously approved the District's 2003-2006 budget. Then, at its September 8, 2003 meeting, the board approved a follow-up resolution authorizing the District to announce that it was considering a change in permit fees. (This was the same meeting at which Mr. LaFave tendered his resignation so that he could accept a staff position with the District.) Eight days later, Reporter Joe Maher of the Daily Gazette broke the story that the District was considering a fee hike of 500 to 1,000 percent. This touched off a firestorm of public outrage from which the District has never recovered. Current chairwoman Anne McDonald also was a board member in 2003.

In announcing Mr. LaFave's new appointment as Executive Director, the Daily Gazette correctly reported that I reacted to the news with cautious optimism. Here's the statement I issued:

We congratulate Glenn LaFave on his appointment as Executive Director of the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District, and we look forward to working with him. He is the Regulating District's fourth Executive Director in the past seven years, and he has inherited a real mess. Relations between the District and the lake's 4,650 access permit holders are at an all-time low.

To his credit, he has hit the ground running by launching a project aimed at revising and updating all of the District's rules and regulations that apply to the lake's controversial access permit system. Commendably, he is soliciting recommendations from the lake community by holding a number of public meetings that will continue from now through the summer. This can be a messy and noisy process -- but it's democracy in action. He has set himself an ambitious schedule by targeting a year-end deadline.

His plate is loaded with other major challenges as well. He needs to improve the Regulating District's abysmal communications with its stakeholders. He needs to determine the legitimate cost of the access permit system, which permit holders must pay for -- a goal that eluded his predecessors. He needs to resolve the divisive controversy over the District's so-called "back-lot practice," now on temporary hold, which redistributes access permits held by some back-lot property owners to the owners of front lots. He needs to solve the problem of the excessively high water levels that damage docks and severely erode the shoreline of Great Sacandaga Lake.

Equally important, he needs to bring stability to, and restore trust in, the Regulating District, a state authority frequently racked with scandal and charges of incompetence and cronyism.

The highlight of the February 6 board meeting was an awards ceremony held to honor three District employees who helped to rescue 35-year-old Kenneth Boger when his snowmobile fell through the ice near the Conklingville Dam. The three employees -- Plant Director Eric Johnson, Field Assistant Dan Kiskis, and Land Surveyor Mark E. Schlindwein -- were surveying the dam when they spotted Mr. Boger's plight. Before the Luzerne-Hadley Fire Department arrived to pull out Mr. Boger, they had launched a private rowboat and employed a sledge hammer to break a channel to him. In attendance at the ceremony was state Assemblyman Marc Butler, who summed up the achievement: "There are few things that we do in our lives that are as remarkable as saving another person's life."

No board meeting will be held in March. The next board meeting will be held at 10:00 a.m. (note time change) on Monday, April 10, at the Loyal Order of the Moose Lodge, Route 30A, 109 South Comrie Avenue, Johnstown. It will begin at 10:00 a.m., instead of 9:00 a.m., to allow more travel time for board members and the new Executive Director. (Two board members and the Executive Director are from the Black River area; one board member is from Ticonderoga.) This means that board meetings will now typically extend into the early afternoon. Ronald Pintuff, the sole board member from the Hudson River area, approved this change. In case you hadn't noticed, the District is now being run by absentee landlords.

Is it true that "Sacandaga" is an old Native American word meaning "lake of a thousand busted docks"?