TO: Batchellerville Bridge Action Committee Members
FROM: Peter VanAvery
DATE: August 23, 2007

At each of this summer's three public meetings on the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District's revised draft rules for access permit holders on Great Sacandaga Lake, a couple of speakers took it upon themselves to thank the District for making the meetings possible. One of my neighbors said that each time he heard those sentiments expressed, he almost gagged. I can understand why. The District did not schedule this year's meetings voluntarily. It was forced to do so by the outrage expressed by angry access permit holders at last year's meetings. The lesson: When access permit holders pull together, they represent a powerful force.

We'll soon have a clue about the Spitzer Administration's intentions toward the District. On September 1, Board Member Arthur Eyre's term will expire. He holds one of the three Board seats reserved for Black River residents and is one of the three members of the District's Permit System Committee. He is, however, best known for his role in killing off the Town Meeting segment of Board Meetings. Held at the end of Board Meetings, the Town Meetings used to allow members of the public to ask questions and express their concerns about pressing issues.

At the December 2006 Board Meeting, Mr. Eyre complained that Town Meetings had become disruptive. He launched his attack by complaining about an "offensive" joke told by a member of the public. As I later pointed out to Executive Director Glenn LaFave, this joke had NOT been told at a Town Meeting but several hours earlier during the Public Forum at the beginning of a Board Meeting -- but it didn't do any good. As of January 2007, Town Meetings disappeared from the Board Meeting agenda.

During his election campaign, Governor Spitzer promised to make state authorities like the District more transparent and accountable. Let's hope his appointee to Mr. Eyre's seat walks the talk. Barring unforeseen departures, Spitzer appointees will not achieve a majority (4 out of 7) on the Board until January 2009.

The District claims that 70 percent of the revised draft rules reflect recommendations in whole of its Great Sacandaga Lake Advisory Committee or the general public. While that may be factually true, it is a misleading statement. Suppose that you set out on a shopping trip and wind up with a small paper bag containing 30 diamonds and 70 marbles. When you arrive home, you make the shocking discovery that the bag is torn, and all its contents have leaked out. The press covers your plight. A couple of days later, a fellow knocks on your door and announces that he has great news ... he has found 70 percent of your lost property. Your heart leaps ... at least until he hands you 70 marbles. His claim is true, but it doesn't solve your problem. That's why I resigned from the Advisory Committee after the District released its revised draft rules. The Committee's key recommendations (the diamonds) were missing.

Although public input meetings on the revised draft rules have ended, you still have until August 31 to submit written comments. To obtain public comment forms, go to the District's web site ( and run off copies (the District prefers that you use a separate form for each rule). Or pick up copies at the District's Sacandaga Field Office, 737 Bunker Hill Road, Mayfield, NY, or at its Albany Office, 350 Northern Boulevard, Albany, NY.

The revised draft rules are skewed toward increasing the number of back-lot access permits. If you are a front-lotter, your quality of life and your property value could be in jeopardy. Here are some statistics to consider: The District issues about 4,530 non-commercial access permits annually. Of these, about 2630 are held by front-lotters and about 1900 by back-lotters -- a difference of only 730. Some observers (including me) suspect that the day that back-lotters outnumber front-lotters will be the day when political pressure begins to develop to limit all access permits to 10-foot widths. If this were done, the reservoir's 125-mile shoreline would support more than 60,000 non-commercial access permits.

Here are a few of the revised draft rules that deserve your comments:

The reservoir's level is currently at 760 feet above sea level, about 4 feet below target. This is the lowest the reservoir has been in August since 2002, the first year Great Sacandaga Lake was regulated under the new Federal license.