TO: Batchellervillle Bridge Action Committee Members
FROM: Peter VanAvery
DATE: September 25, 2006

The next Regulating District Board Meeting will be held at 9:00 a.m. on Monday, October 2, at the Stillwater Hotel, 2591 Stillwater Road, Lowville, NY.

After nearly a decade of stalling, Federal, State, and Saratoga County officials say they have finally worked out a way to pay for construction and upkeep of a new Batchellerville Bridge across Great Sacandaga Lake at Edinburg. Under the deal, the $35-$40 million cost of the structure will be borne mainly by New York State, with an initial $2.7 million kicked in by the Federal Government. Saratoga County will take title to the completed bridge and will maintain it. Construction will probably not begin until 2009.

NYS Department of Transportation has been talking since 1998 about replacing the aging bridge. Why the delay? Neither the State nor the County wanted to acknowledge ownership of the bridge and the responsibility for picking up the bill. The structure, completed in 1930, was built by the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District with funds from the reservoir's downstream beneficiaries (mainly hydroelectric firms). Somewhere along the way, according to the District, it transferred ownership to the State or the County -- but the records have disappeared. (These are not the only important District records that have mysteriously vanished.)

In any event, the District has succeeded in transferring this white elephant onto the backs of the taxpayers. For details about the project, please see the Daily Gazette story below. As you will note, Town of Edinburg Supervisor Jean Raymond and a DOT spokeswoman contradict one another on the bridge's design/location. This is strange, as is the fact that DOT has not yet issued a press release on the subject.

For now, here are some points to keep in mind:

This announcement came after Labor Day, when many seasonal property owners have scattered to the winds and are unable to react as a group. This is an old DOT ploy that can backfire (remember the tumultuous DOT public informational meeting at Edinburg Common School in late-September 2000?).

DOT likes to assure us that it doesn't care about the height/location of the replacement bridge -- that it only wants to respond to the desires of Great Sacandaga's stakeholders. Reality check: Always assume that DOT wants to build the highest possible replacement bridge. The higher the bridge, the higher its cost. The higher its cost, the higher the profits for construction firms. And the higher the profits, the greater the possibility of larger political campaign donations.

How done is this deal? It was announced barely a month before the general election in November. Come January, the State will have a new Governor, and DOT will have new leadership. Will they go along?

Schenectady, NY
September 20, 2006

Deal clears way for a new bridge
Batchellerville span is showing signs of aging


County supervisors on Tuesday approved an agreement that should lead to replacement of the aging Batchellerville Bridge across Great Sacandaga Lake in Edinburg.

The deal between the county and the state Department of Transportation resolves a long-standing ownership dispute by saying that if state and federal money is used to build a replacement for the 76-year-old bridge, the county will agree that it owns the new structure. The agreement was approved unanimously at a Board of Supervisors meeting in Ballston Spa.

The 3,078-foot bridge was built in 1930 during initial construction of the Great Sacandaga Reservoir and is the only vehicle link between the two parts of Edinburg separated by the lake.

It has rust, cracks and other signs of deterioration due to age, but the question of who owns it and has final responsibility for replacing it has delayed replacement for more than a decade.

The DOT will take the lead on financing and constructing the replacement, which is estimated to cost between $35 million and $40 million.

"Now we can begin going forward with permits and environmental review," said Carol Breen, a DOT spokeswoman.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Harry G. Gutheil Jr., R-Moreau, said the board's action Tuesday doesn't obligate the county to ultimately replace the new bridge in decades ahead.

"There's no guarantee down the road what will happen," Gutheil said. "This board is not making any decisions to bind future boards. As history looks back on us, I think that's important."

The final cost of the bridge will depend on many factors, including the final design, Breen said.

She said there are six designs under consideration, including locations both north and south of the existing bridge and at heights with between 35 feet and 55 feet of clearance under the bridge.

The bridge height was the subject of an extensive public debate between 1999 and 2002, and Peter Van Avery of the Batchellerville Bridge Action Committee said Tuesday that the group will fight to keep the 42-foot compromise height the state announced then.

"That agreement was based on three years of meetings with stakeholders around the lake," said Van Avery, who owns a home in Edinburg and was fighting to keep the bridge height low to protect views of the Adirondacks from the shoreline. "The 42 feet was agreed to as a compromise, and we grudgingly accepted it."

Edinburg Supervisor Jean Raymond, who has been close to recent negotiations to resolve the ownership issue, said the height is settled at 42 feet, the location will be south of the current bridge and the question of sidewalks has been resolved by saying there will be a seasonal sidewalk, not maintained in winter.

"They've determined where the bridge will go, what it will look like, they've done the archaeology (investigation)," she said. "The thing they haven't done is land acquisition."

She said development of bid specifications and land acquisition will take at least a year, and a realistic construction schedule would have work start in the spring of 2009.

A federal earmark of $2.7 million is already available for further work, said Melissa Carlson, a spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. John E. Sweeney, R-Clifton Park. "As far as additional funding, we will work closely with local officials to see what can be done," Carlson said.

In another action closely linked to Great Sacandaga Lake, the supervisors approved $50,000 in additional engineering costs to redesign one of the emergency communications towers proposed around the lake. The money will be used in designing a new location for the proposed Lakeview tower in the town of Day.