TO: Batchellervillle Bridge Action Committee Members
FROM: Peter VanAvery
DATE: November 4, 2006

ALERT! Over the past 17 days, Great Sacandaga Lake has risen 9 feet vertically to 769 feet above sea level. That's 11 feet above target and one foot above the point at which the lake is considered "full." The lake is now only two feet below the tip of the spillway at the Conklingville Dam. If you left any assets on or near your beach, you'd better move them up a lot higher. The Hudson River-Black River Regulating District predicts that the lake will rise at least another foot by the end of the week. At this rate, it is likely that docks will be afloat at the time of freeze-up in mid-December, causing extensive damage.

This is a dumb stunt for the District to pull just a couple of days before a general election. The valves at the dam have been closed for the past six days. Is this necessary? No! The Upper Hudson is in flood when the flow at Fort Edward exceeds 20,000 cubic feet per second. At the moment, the flow is only 8,000. This means that the District could be releasing 12,000 cubic feet per second of water without causing any flooding.

The following letter from me was published this week in the Daily Gazette, the Leader-Herald, and the Recorder:


New Batchellerville Bridge welcome, but not one so high!

In 2009, at a cost of $40 million, the state will begin construction of a new Batchellerville Bridge across Great Sacandaga Lake at Edinburg. It's about time!

But the downside is that the Department of Transportation has revoked its 2002 compromise design that called for a span with a vertical clearance of 42 feet out at its center. Instead, it wants to return to the drawing board.

From 1999 to 2001, DOT tried every trick in the book to slip the highest possible design past the lake's stakeholders. What DOT wants is a structure that would elevate Saratoga County Road 98 up to the tips of the lampposts on the existing bridge nearly twice as high as it is now. The new bridge's lampposts and railing would jut upward from there. The cumulative effect would be the destruction of one of the most beautiful vistas in the Adirondack Park.

During this time, DOT solicited comments on designs with vertical clearances ranging from 35 to 55 feet although it was clear that the agency favored the latter. Required by law to hold two public meetings, DOT designed them to convey as little information as possible. And the second was scheduled for several weeks after Labor Day, when most seasonal property owners would no longer be in the area. We yelled cover-up and turned out a large crowd that forced DOT to schedule a full-fledged public hearing during the summer of 2001.

At that meeting, supporters of a low replacement bridge far outnumbered supporters of the highest option. DOT announced the compromise design the following year, and it was approved by the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors. It would allow most of the lake's sailboats to pass underneath. Owners of the largest sailboats, who already have 70 percent of the lake's surface to sail on and who seldom venture up the narrow neck of the lake on which the bridge is located, can trade down to slightly smaller craft if they really want to pass underneath.

Now, DOT wants still another public hearing, this time in late winter or early spring again when seasonal residents are absent. This is unacceptable. Fortunately, in just two months, the state will have a new governor and DOT a new chairman. The Batchellerville Bridge Action Committee will fight to persuade them to reverse this DOT double-cross.


During the three public input meetings held this summer by the Regulating District on its proposed new draft rules, I heard scores of great suggestions about how they can be improved. I was particularly impressed by comments sent to the District by Access Permit Holder Kenneth Hapeman. Ken has given me permission to share them with you:

Comments on Draft Permit System Rules -- 9/7/2006

1. The presentation by Saratoga Assoc. at the 9/6 public meeting revealed that the consultant had prepared a list of "activities" associated with the permit system. I strongly urge that the District make that list of activities public and encourage discussion of them. This would increase public understanding of the permit system and perhaps even result in some revision or fine tuning of the activities that are tied to it. This really should happen before further discussing the rules so that we more fully understand the system that the rules apply to.

2. From various comments at the public meetings it is clear that some of the items in the proposed rules come from legislation or regulations of DEC or perhaps the APA. I think it would be very helpful if any items that are not directly the responsibility of the Regulating District either be removed from the rules or placed in an appendix where they can be referenced separately. That will help us sharpen our focus on items that are within the control of the District.

3. One speaker quoted some guiding advice for regulators from the web site of GORR at the 9/6 meeting. I believe the draft rules should pass the tests described by those words -- for the most part a rule should exist only if it is absolutely necessary and not simply to appease special interests expressed by users of the lake. An example might be the allowable configuration of piers -- is it really necessary to have rules that dictate such things at all? Enforcement of many of these rules will also be a problem for the District.

4. The size and scope of the draft rules is a great concern to those of us who are concerned about the eventual cost of both work and access permits. The greater the number of rules, the greater the cost of trying to enforce them. Combine that with the looming legal pressures from lawsuits by companies with very deep pockets compared to the District (and permittees), and you have a situation where we must be sure the rules are absolutely as lean as possible. If National Grid feels the permit system isn't holding up its fair share, they will vigorously pursue that in court. We want lean rules so the cost of running the system is as low as possible.

5. Numerous speakers have described apparent inconsistencies between different sections of the draft rules. The District should engage a professional editor to review the document and tie up loose ends as well as to improve some of the language. Some of the language is very legalistic and could be more user friendly. Some of it is just plain confusing and poorly written.

6. Wherever conflicting rules are identified, they should be combined and rewritten to cover the point in one spot. An example which particularly concerned me is the issue of "exclusive access" for permit holders -- seemingly taken away in 4.5 (which is also an example of a poorly worded and confusing section) but given back in section 4.13 with responsibility for enforcement and liability residing with the permittee. In the case of this particular issue, I believe "exclusive access" needs to be added back in to the eventual rewritten paragraph or we have permits that are worth very little.

7. Some of the rules contain items that go beyond the access permit system. As such I believe they should be removed, perhaps to be posted elsewhere by the District as applying to all users of the lake. Every rule in this document should be applicable only to the access permit system.

Here's an update on the advisory committee that the District proposes to establish on the rule-making process. The supervisors of the nine towns around Great Sacandaga will each appoint one member, as will the following organizations: Batchellerville Bridge Action Committee, Back-Lot Owners Committee, GSL Fisheries Federation, Great Sacandaga Lake Association, Fulton County Regional Chamber of Commerce, Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce, and Town of Day Property Owners Association. In addition, the GSL Business Association has been asked to provide two members-- a marina owner and a non-marina owner. For more background, see the October 17 BBAC Newsletter. If you think this committee is loaded against the interests of non-commercial access permit holders, you'd better attend and speak out at the next Regulating District board meeting (below). Why, for example, are people who hold commercial access permits or no access permits at all voting on rules that affect YOUR permit?

The next Regulating District board meeting will be held at 10:00 a.m. on Monday, November 13, at the Loyal Order of the Moose Lodge, 109 South Comrie Avenue, Johnstown. A key agenda item will be the board's approval of the advisory committee mentioned above.