TO: Batchellervillle Bridge Action Committee Members
FROM: Peter VanAvery
DATE: September 27, 2006

The Hudson River-Black River Regulating District has changed the starting time of its Monday, October 2, board meeting from 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. The meeting will be held at the Stillwater Hotel, 2591 Stillwater Road, Lowville, NY.


Governor Pataki has appointed Philip W. Klein of Saratoga Springs to a five-year term on the Regulating District's Board. He will fill the seat vacated in September 2005 by the resignation of James Jankowski. Unfortunately, he is not a property owner and access permit holder on Great Sacandaga Lake, which means he has a lot to learn.

Born in Gloversville, Mr. Klein represented Saratoga Springs on the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors for nearly two decades. He was beaten last November in the Democratic sweep of every office in Saratoga Springs. His background is in insurance sales, and he is associated with the Wise Agency in Saratoga Springs. He has been an enthusiastic supporter of the proposed (and controversial) $75-$90 million Saratoga County water project, which would tap the Hudson River at Moreau and pipe water throughout the county.

Here are the term limits on the five board members: Arthur Eyre (September 1, 2007), Anne McDonald (September 1, 2008), Pamela Beyor (September 1, 2009), Ronald Pintuff (September 1, 2010), and Philip Klein (September 1, 2011). Does this mean that it will be a long wait until the next governor is able to exert his influence? Not necessarily. Past governors have shown that if they really want to make changes, they will find ways -- although it may take a bit of time.


My wife and I were among the six Great Sacandaga attendees at the September 11 board meeting in Watertown. Here's a summary:

Ronald Pintuff announced a proposed timeline for the extended rule-revision process. Draft rules will continue to be posted on the District's web site until December 15, with public input accepted until then. During the winter, revisions will be made, and an updated set of draft rules will be posted for comment on May 1. More public input meetings will be held next summer.

In the meantime, the District will meet with town supervisors and other stakeholder groups. I pointed out that three-quarters of the lake's property owners are seasonal residents, which means that they don't vote in lake-area elections, that they may not agree with positions taken by town supervisors, and that many are furious at their towns for treating them as cash cows to be milked mercilessly at tax time. I also noted that no single lake group represents a majority of access permit holders.


Every access permit holder I know is concerned about the new schedule of fees that will be introduced in 2010. So I asked when the District was going to tell us which activities its employees would be instructed to charge against the permit system (which you and I have to pay for). We want to see if we agree with what's on the list. Executive Director Glenn LaFave's answer: Saratoga Associates will eventually make a presentation to the Board on that subject, and that's when we'll find out. "Eventually" is not soon enough. We need to keep the pressure on them.


After long deliberation, I have devised a rule that I believe should lead off the new rule book: "1.0 Expectations. An access permit holder, in dealing with the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District, should expect neither logic nor fair play."


The board voted to pay Saratoga Associates an additional $30,000 to continue its work on the rule-revision process in 2007. I suspect that most permit holders will not be overjoyed by this.


The board is very concerned about litigation involving a downstream beneficiary (Fourth Branch Associates, which operates a 4.5 megawatt hydroelectric plant in Mechanicville) that is challenging its annual assessment. Whatever the claim (the District will not reveal details), the District is treating it very seriously and has retained the law firm of Brickfield, Burchette, Ritts & Stone, P.C., to represent it. This issue has the potential to end up in Federal court.


Ronald Pintuff announced that the District has had no success in hiring a licensed surveyor (the position has been vacant since March). My recommendation: If you get involved in a major dispute with the District over the location of the buffer zone, hire a licensed surveyor of your own to determine exactly where the boundary line lies.


Chief Engineer Robert Foltan's report really ticked me off. He announced that when the three Dow valves at the Conklingville Dam were tested in late August, one of them refused to open. (These monstrous valves -- each 8 feet in diameter -- are located at the foot of the spillway and are opened in emergencies to allow a rapid release of water.) When a scuba diver inspected the valve's downstream side, he discovered that a crucial pin had broken off. When he checked out the adjacent valve, he found that its pin was heavily corroded.

This lack of preventive maintenance on an aging 76-year-old facility is inexcusable! If any job ever required zero defects, it is that of dam keeper. Think of the destructive power pent up behind that dam! Every piece of its equipment should operate flawlessly all the time. And what would happen to the lake's level if one or more of those valves jammed open? This incident reflects very badly on past inspections of the dam by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and New York State. This sort of incompetence brought about the New Orleans disaster. Downstream property owners should bombard elected officials with letters.


For the past three years, the Regulating District and the Adirondack Park Agency have been working on a draft "memo of understanding" that would clarify the extent of the Agency's jurisdiction over activities by private individuals on the buffer zone around the lake and specify when formal review by the Agency is required. Translation: Expect more red tape. Interestingly, the draft memo claims that the District "owns" the buffer zone. This is either an error or a change in policy. In the past, the District's party line has always been that while it holds jurisdiction over the buffer zone, the land is owned by the state. Access the memo at the following:
http://www.apa.state.ny.us/Mailing/0609/FullAgency/hrbrrdmemo.swf and
http://www.apa.state.ny.us/Mailing/0609/FullAgency/apahrbrrdmou.swf.


The lake's water level is currently at 760.96 feet above sea level -- about 6 inches below target.