TO: Batchellerville Bridge Action Committee Members
FROM: Peter VanAvery
DATE: June 28, 2006

At its June 12 board meeting in Johnstown, the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District wrapped up Phase 1 of its effort to update the rules that govern Great Sacandaga Lake's access permit system. The board heard reports from two teams: one staffed by consultant Saratoga Associates and its subcontractors (focus: permit eligibility, cost of the permit system, permit fees) and the other staffed by District personnel (focus: everything else).

In addition to relying on their own expertise and advice from other state agencies, the teams sought oral and written comments from the public. Five public meetings were held. Written comments submitted by the public filled two large 3-ring binders.

The District is currently consolidating the two reports into one set of draft rules. At the July 10 board meeting in Johnstown, the board is expected to approve submitting them for preliminary review by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), Adirondack Park Agency (APA), Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), and Governor's Office of Regulatory Reform (GORR). This will mark the beginning of Phase 2 of the rule-revision process and could result in changes in the wording.

In addition, sometime between July 15 and September 1, the District expects to hold two additional public input meetings when seasonal people are back in force at the lake. I'll let you assess the fairness of this. The District held five public input meetings pre-season to go through the old rule book. Now it will hold just two public input meetings during the summer to go through the revised, and probably fatter, rule book.

One factor that will be especially critical is how much time the public will have to review the new rules before these two meetings. The District says it will post them on its website and make copies available at its Sacandaga Field Office.

To date, the District has revealed only some of the proposed rules. We don't even know the total number (the present rule book contains about 50). Here's a preliminary look:

  • In line with past practice, access permits will not be transferable from one property owner to another. However, a new owner (whether back-lotter or front-lotter) will have first crack at applying for the permit. This appears to indicate that the District will not reinstitute its controversial back-lot practice. Whether this proposed rule will survive APA review (it has overall responsibility for access permits across the lands of the forever-wild forest preserve -- which includes the state-owned buffer zone around the lake) remains to be seen. The proposed rule seems to be a semantic somersault: Permits are not transferable, but they are.

  • Permits will continue to be renewed annually (specified by the APA).

  • Back-lotters within one mile of the lake -- as measured in a straight line -- will be eligible to apply for an access permit. The current practice, in effect since 1993, measures the mile by the odometer. The effect would be to increase the number of eligible properties.

  • Special permits (heretofore issued to local government boards and religious, fraternal, and charitable organizations) will be eliminated.

  • An access permit segment extends to the water's edge. As the lake's level drops, the permit area grows. As the lake's level's rises, the permit area shrinks.

  • To bring the District's nomenclature in line with NYS Navigation Law, docks will henceforth be called "piers." According to Navigation Law, a pier is a wharf extending from the shoreline with water on both sides, while a dock is a wharf extending along the shoreline and generally connected with the uplands throughout its length.

  • Permit area widths less than 20 feet may have some rules different from permit area widths 20 feet or greater. Examples: Less than 20 feet: a dock 4 feet wide and 40 feet long; 20 feet or greater: a dock 8 feet wide and 65 feet long. Less than 20 feet: 2 motorized watercraft; 20 feet or greater: 4 motorized watercraft. Less than 20 feet: 1 boat (motorized or not) can be moored; 20 feet or greater: 2 boats (motorized or not) can be moored.

  • Moored boats must stay within the limits of the access lines as the lines extend into the water. Moorings must be within 100 feet of the shore (was 40 feet).

  • No person shall discharge sewage or waste onto the access permit area or into the lake except under DEC permit. This rule is essentially unchanged. I can't imagine any access permit holder happy with the thought of swimming in wastewater!

  • Swimming floats or any other movable structures (other than moorings), authorized by permit, shall not be anchored, placed, or located in excess of 65 feet from the shore (was 40 feet).

  • As for a proposed new rule stating that an access permit width, once established, shall never be reduced -- which I am championing -- there has been no mention so far.

    I'll stop at this point and cover other board actions (including approval of the 2006-2009 budget) in future newsletters. But I want you to be aware of the following. Board member Ronald Pintuff of Sacandaga Park proposed a resolution that would limit questions from members of the public attending board meetings to topics discussed during those meetings.

    This ticked me off. During the Q&A session, I pointed out that when Glenn LaFave was awarded a permanent appointment as Executive Director in February, he said one of his goals was to improve communications with stakeholders. I noted that limiting questions is no way to do that. What a temptation for board members! Avoid tough questions on hot topics such as high water levels by scrupulously avoiding any mention of them during a meeting!

    I also pointed out that wide-ranging questions are educational for everybody present, including the three out of four board members who come from outside the Upper Hudson watershed and are essentially clueless to Great Sacandaga's problems. Unfortunately, the board decided to take Mr. Pintuff's recommendation under advisement. Be sure to let him know your reaction.

    The next meeting of the Regulating District's board will be held at 10:00 a.m. on Monday, July 10, at the Loyal Order of the Moose Lodge, 30 South Comrie Avenue, Route 30A, Johnstown.