TO: Batchellerville Bridge Action Committee Members
FROM: Peter VanAvery
DATE: May 21, 2007

The public comment period has ended for the Batchellerville Bridge Replacement Project. Now we wait for NYS Department of Transportation's final decision on the bridge's design. DOT's current schedule calls for design approval in Summer 2007, design completion in Summer 2008, start of construction in Fall 2008, and completion of construction in November 2011.

At the April 24 public hearing at Northville Central School, DOT's management heard three basic messages:

  • An extremely high bridge would damage the vista and be hazardous to cross in wintry conditions.
  • The replacement bridge should not be any taller than the department's "preferred design," an arch-like bridge that would elevate County Route 98 to a maximum of 50 feet (vs. the current 32 feet) above Great Sacandaga Lake. (While several speakers favored a flat, low bridge, the highest replacement option, which would hoist County Route 98 up to the tips of the lamp posts on the current bridge, received zero support.)
  • DOT should stop fiddling around and start construction ASAP.
  • The preferred design has been endorsed by the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors, the Town of Edinburg, the BBAC, two area newspapers (Daily Gazette and Leader-Herald), and numerous others.

    You'll find the BBAC's statements at the hearing, plus newspaper coverage, on our web site:

    At the hearing, Great Sacandaga Lake Association President Peter Byron said his group did not endorse any height option. Instead, he called for DOT to conduct an economic impact study of the different vertical clearance options. He said that his organization had joined five years ago with the Fulton County Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Fulton County Board of Supervisors to request such a study and that it had never been done.

    Background: Mr. Byron is a sailboater and a member of the Mayfield Yacht Club. In 1998, the year before DOT held its first public informational meeting to disclose its bridge replacement plans, he was one of three individuals from whom a DOT consultant (Clough, Harbour & Associates LLP) obtained information about the vertical clearance necessary to accommodate sailboats beneath the proposed bridge. Based on their input, the consultant recommended a vertical clearance of 50 feet. DOT later raised that to 55 feet. Allegedly, Mr. Byron is not a property owner on the lake and therefore not an access permit holder.

    With the 77-year-old bridge deteriorating rapidly, people are asking why Mr. Byron waited this long before repeating his call for an economic impact study. They inquire: Has he polled GSLA members to find out what they want, or this is a last-ditch effort on his part to salvage the 55-foot vertical clearance favored by a handful of his fellow sailboaters?

    The following letter appeared in the Daily Gazette on May 6:

    "Skip the study, build the bridge

    "Thank you for your continued coverage of the replacement of the Batchellerville Bridge over the Great Sacandaga Lake. We support the previously announced plan to have the new span 42 feet above the high water level. Thus we are very disappointed that the Great Sacandaga Lake Association (GSLA) is now asking for further study of the various plans that were proposed.

    "We need a new bridge as soon as possible! There appears to be wide agreement on the 42-foot height. The stance of the GSLA on this issue is not in the best interests of the area residents, and we will no longer support that organization.

    "The last thing we need is more study. The issue has been studied and studied; we now need to get on with building the bridge.

    "Susan R. Fessler & William A. Fessler, Edinburg"

    Here's another letter that appeared in the Daily Gazette (May 17):

    "DOT's Batchellerville Bridge effort a fiasco

    "On April 24, I attended what may be the last public meeting on the Batchellerville Bridge replacement project.

    "Since the initial public hearings in 1999, we have never been given a comparison between a flat vs. a rising bridge regarding cost, maintenance and safety issues. After all these years, all the state Department of Transportation could come up with is a compromise height of a 42-foot clearance - no mention of retaining the flat design and the deterioration of the existing bridge.

    "The alternatives of a 35-, 42- or 55-foot clearance were a desperate attempt to satisfy people with large sailboats who think they may want to venture north of the bridge. These people should be ashamed of themselves for pitting their selfish whims against the needs (work, school, emergency, shipping, etc.) of people who must use the bridge year-round.

    "This incomplete planning process (lack of users' input surveys) could produce the results that the people who use the bridge year-round will have to live with for the next 50-plus years.

    "Jim Ramsey, Schenectady"

    In the April 30 edition of The Recorder, Town of Northampton Supervisor Linda Kemper expressed her concern about the height of the replacement bridge. Her quote reads in part: "I have been on the current bridge when it is snowy and slick. I say the lower the better. I think the concerns of the sailboaters should not take precedence over the safety of our residents."

    The Regulating District's Great Sacandaga Lake Advisory Committee, of which I am a member, has completed its review of the authority's draft rules for access permit holders. My thanks to Guy Poulin, Marilyn Sargent, and Gary Lewton for serving as my alternates during this long process, which began last November. The committee's numerous recommendations -- along with comments made at last summer's public hearings or submitted in writing by interested parties -- are being considered by the board as it hammers out a second draft of the proposed new rules. The board's Permit System Committee is composed of Chairman Ronald Pintuff, Patrick Dugan, and Arthur Eyre. The new set of draft rules will be posted on the District's web site on June 22. Three additional public hearings will be held this summer.

    The lake is around 768 feet above sea level -- 1 foot above target. In late April/early May, extremely high water levels undercut the shoreline, causing extensive erosion. For 8 days in a row, the reservoir was filled to capacity, sending water surging over the spillway.