Statement
Peter VanAvery, Batchellerville Bridge Action Committee
at
Hudson River-Black River Regulating District Board Meeting
Johnstown, NY
November 13, 2006

I am Peter VanAvery, representing the Batchellerville Bridge Action Committee. I am one of Great Sacandaga Lake's 4,530 non-commercial access permit holders.

This has not been a great year for the Regulating District.

In January, your mismanagement of water levels hurt winter sports on the lake, sending a deep chill through the local economy. Local businesses limped into the summer, hoping for relief. They didn't get it. At the end of June, the lake hit a record high, ruining the Fourth of July Weekend. Today, the lake is 12 feet above its target level, with the water just 19 inches below the tip of the spillway. Next month, when the lake freezes over, docks and stairways will be crushed in ice.

You always fall back on the tired excuse that your ability to store and release water is dictated by the Offer of Settlement. That's an insult to our intelligence. That document is poorly written, contradictory, and subject to a variety of interpretations. Could you release a lot more water without causing flooding? Absolutely! The Upper Hudson reaches flood stage when the river's flow at Fort Edward exceeds 23,500 cubic feet per second. But at 7:00 a.m. this morning, the flow gauge at Fort Edward read only 7,000 cfs. So you could be safely releasing an additional 16,500 cfs. But you aren't, and the lake stays high.

Let me make it clear: We access permit holders don't trust you. What's our mood? Words like "enraged" and "infuriated" hardly do it justice.

In January, the District launched a process designed to update its rules for access permit holders, with a year-end deadline. You botched the job. You held five meetings to obtain public input on existing rules and then another three on your revised rules. I attended and participated in all of them. It's unfortunate that no board member can say the same. But when the new rules were posted, it was clear that you never had any interest in permit holder concerns. The resulting public outrage forced you to extend the process by another year.

Now you are setting up an advisory committee on the rule-revision process, putting a layer of insulation between you and the public. The concept of an advisory committee may be fine. But again, you show only contempt for non-commercial access permit holders ... because the committee's proposed membership violates every rule of fair play and the democratic process.

An advisory committee on rules for access permit holders ought to be composed of access permit holders. That's not the case. Your committee is loaded with outsiders, including representatives of the Fulton County and Saratoga County Chambers of Commerce -- two organizations that we suspect want to turn the reservoir into another Lake George. Why should these organizations have a vote on rules that affect me and my neighbors? Why should their representatives each have a vote equal to mine?

In addition, the GSL Business Association has been invited to appoint two members -- a marina owner and a non-marina owner. But the whole lake has only 59 commercial access permits. So if 59 commercial access permit holders are entitled to two members, then the lake's 4,530 non-commercial access permit holders ought to be entitled to 154. That's simple math. That would be fair. That would be democratic. But we'll be lucky to have a half-dozen or so members fully committed to our interests.

And why have the supervisors of nine area towns been asked to appoint representatives? I'll wager that more than half of those supervisors didn't attend a single one of those eight rule-revision meetings. Worse, three-quarters of the lake's access permit holders are seasonal and don't vote here, so those supervisors feel no need to represent our interests.

Speaking of voting, why should the Town of Hope, with its small slice of the reservoir's shoreline, have a vote equal to the Town of Edinburg, with its many miles of shoreline? Why should the GSL Fisheries Federation have a vote equal to the Back Lot Owners Committee, which has a membership several times larger?

As I pointed out at the beginning of this statement, I am an access permit holder. Can the chairman of the GSL Fisheries Federation and the president of the Great Sacandaga Lake Association say the same?

At this point, I strongly recommend that the board devote further study to this proposed advisory committee. Limit membership to access permit holders. At the very least, specify that any recommendation by this advisory committee must be by consensus. No consensus, no recommendation. That would neutralize the agendas of special interest groups.

Otherwise, now that your bias against us is so obvious, be prepared for a hostile reception when your public input meetings resume next year. Be prepared for more unfavorable publicity. Be prepared for more calls from elected officials who have heard from disgruntled constituents. Don't say you weren't warned.

And finally, good luck with your new boss, Governor-Elect Eliot Spitzer.

Thank you.