TO: Batchellerville Bridge Action Committee Members
FROM: Peter VanAvery
DATE: March 24, 2006

The Hudson River-Black River Regulating District has finally scheduled its third meeting to solicit public input on revisions to its rules and regulations for the permit system at Great Sacandaga Lake. Time: 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Date: Tuesday, March 28. Place: auditorium at Mayfield Central School (note new location), 27 School Street, Mayfield. Agenda: Introduction & Overview (15 minutes), Permit Eligibility -- including the controversial "back-lot practice" now on temporary hold (30 Minutes), Permit Application (30 Minutes), Permit Fees (30 minutes) and General Comments (15 minutes). It will be led by an independent facilitator provided by Saratoga Associates, a consulting firm based in Saratoga Springs, who will perform the same task at Session #4, while Session #5 will again be facilitated by the District.

The time, date, and location of this Mayfield meeting once again assure that attendance by seasonal property owners will be minimal. To obtain inputs from seasonal residents, the District will hold a second round of public meetings in the summer -- after it issues a set of revised rules in draft form. Meanwhile, if you can't attend a meeting or are unwilling to speak out in public, you can download a "Permit System Rules Revision Public Comment Form" by going to http://www.hrbrrd.com/rulespubliccommentform.html. Use separate forms to comment on separate rules. Alert: Your comments will not be anonymous. Copies of submitted forms will be made available to anyone who files a Freedom of Information Law request with the District and is willing to pay a fee of 25 cents per page.

Since the BBAC's membership includes both front-lotters and back-lotters, the organization will not take sides on whether or not to restore the back-lot practice. As I told you months ago, our goal was to assure that the issue received the publicity it deserved so that both sides and other interested parties (this newsletter is mailed to the Governor, 20 other elected officials and state agency heads, and the media) could fully understand what is at stake. We have covered this issue extensively, and we believe that the goal has been accomplished. Regrettably, this controversial issue does not appear to lend itself to a compromise. There will be winners and losers, with neighbor turned against neighbor.

Back-lot property owners, who contend that restoration of the back-lot practice would threaten their property values, have formed a new and fast-growing organization called The BLOC (Back-Lot Owners Committee). (Incidentally, the organization's name was coined by a BBAC member.) By contrast, front-lotters affected by the practice appear to be going it alone. Meanwhile, some wonder if the District is as neutral as it claims. People say that during Richard Lefebvre's tenure as District executive director, he told at least one public group that a front-lotter was entitled to an access permit covering his full frontage. Is that alleged bias still in effect?

How do you tell if you are a back-lotter? Check your copy of your annual access permit renewal application. If you are a back-lotter, you'll see the letters "BL" at lower left. If you are a back-lotter, does your 10' permit segment fall between a front-lotter and the lake, making you vulnerable to the back-lot practice? Not certain? Call the Sacandaga Field Office at 518-661-5535.


At the Mayfield meeting, I will urge the District to formalize one of its long-standing practices in a new rule as follows: "Permit fees will recover 80% of the legitimate cost of operating the access permit system. The remaining 20% is considered a reservoir maintenance expense in recognition of the work done by permit holders in fulfilling their obligation to maintain their permit area in a clean and sanitary condition." Let's set this in concrete!


The revolving door continues to spin at the Regulating District. Latest to depart is General Counsel Shari Calnero, who joined the District on July 12, 2004. Her position, which paid $79,000 annually, has not yet been filled. Her replacement will play a major role in assuring that the District's revised rules and regulations pass legal scrutiny.


Access permit holders suffered a disheartening amount of ice damage to docks and stairways this past winter. Since the lake was full at the time it froze over in December, which happened only once before in its 76-year history, this comes as no surprise. In some cases, shifting ice snapped stairways made from 2" x 12" boards as easily as if they were made of toothpicks. This summer, as in 2004, the BBAC will conduct a survey aimed at placing a dollar total on the damage. Goal: To demonstrate why the Federal license on the reservoir needs amending to allow the District to release more water when levels are excessively high for long periods of time.


The next meeting of the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District's board will be held at 10:00 a.m. (note new starting time) on Monday, April 10, at the Loyal Order of the Moose Lodge, 109 South Comrie Avenue, Johnstown. Henceforth, board meetings (the majority of which are held in the Hudson River Area) will begin at 10:00 a.m. -- instead of 9:00 a.m. -- to make it more convenient for board members (three out of four of whom live outside the area) and the District's executive director (who lives in Watertown) to attend.

While this change in starting time may make life easier for board members and the executive director, the same can't be said for interested members of the public. Board meetings will now frequently extend through lunch hour into early afternoon. This could reduce the number of people (including reporters) who stick it out until the end of the meeting, when the board takes questions from the public. But this Q & A session can be one of the most informative parts of the meeting. So take along a bag of snacks to tide you over.

The April 10 board meeting in Johnstown will provide a first look at the proposed budget for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1. Of special interest is the revenue that the District expects to receive from access permit fees. (They brought in $423,000 during the current fiscal year.) If the proposed budget contains a substantially higher number, it will signal a hike in permit fees. The 2006-2007 budget will receive its final approval at the June board meeting.

This will be the last time the board will meet here until July. The May and June board meetings are tentatively scheduled for the Black River Area. No board meeting is scheduled for August.


The lake's surface is now at 765 feet above sea level -- 17 feet above target.