TO: Batchellerville Bridge Action Committee Members
FROM: Peter VanAvery
DATE: October 10, 2007

The Hudson River-Black River Regulating District's Board has voted to submit its proposed rules for Great Sacandaga Lake's permit system to the Governor's Office of Regulatory Reform (GORR) for review.

If GORR does not approve the rules, they will be returned to the Board with recommended changes. If GORR does approve them, they will be published in the State Register, followed by a minimum 45-day public comment period. If that results in a "substantial revision" to the rules, they will be republished in the State Register, followed by a shorter 30-day comment period.

To quote the Regulating District's September 28 press release on the subject: "The Regulating District hopes to formally adopt the rules by December 10, 2007 and forward them to the Department of Environmental Conservation for review and approval. After DEC approval, the new rules could be implemented in 2008, with the exception of permit system fees which have been capped until 2010."

Clearly, the Regulating District does not anticipate making major changes that would result in a second public comment period, which is not even mentioned in its press release. If that second public comment period is indeed required, the District's December 10 deadline would be unachievable -- just add 45 days plus 30 days plus the fact that each issue of the State Register takes two weeks to produce.

The District has continued to ignore many of the public's recommendations. To prepare yourself for the coming public comment period, go to http://www.hrbrrd.com/proposedrules.html, where you will find links to two documents. The first, 57 pages long, contains the complete package of rules submitted to GORR; the second, 15 pages long, contains only those rules changed since June 18, when the prior draft was released to us.

In addition, the District has posted answers to questions about the permit system: http://www.hrbrrd.com/psqanda2007.pdf. You can pick up copies of all three documents at the District's Mayfield and Albany offices.


It took two meetings for the Board to approve the rules package sent to GORR. The first, a special meeting held in Johnstown on September 27, approved the text without any last-minute changes -- although one Board member tried to make some (see below). The second, a regular meeting held on October 1 in the isolated village of Lowville, approved the whole package, which included transmittal documents required by the State Administrative Procedures Act. (No members of the public showed up at the latter meeting.)

Before the vote at the September 27 meeting, District General Counsel William Busler told the Board that he had checked with the NYS State Ethics Commission and that his recommendation was that the two Board members who held Great Sacandaga access permits (Patrick Dugan of Edinburg and Ronald Pintuff of Sacandaga Park) should not vote on this issue because of a potential conflict of interest. He said, however, that the Ethics Commission was "unclear" on the subject and that its opinion was informal and not legally binding.

Both men are members of the District's Permit System Committee, which Mr. Pintuff chairs. Mr. Pintuff heeded counsel's advice and recused himself from voting on the rules at both meetings. Mr. Dugan, however, rejected counsel's recommendation. As he told the Leader-Herald later: "Asking me to recuse myself is like asking someone to run for governor and not vote for themselves. It's going to take someone to tell me I can't vote before I recuse myself."

At the September 27 meeting, the Board voted 4-1 to send the rules to GORR without any last-minute changes. The "opposed" vote was cast by Mr. Dugan, who wanted the Board to reconsider the wording of four rules. (One of the seven Board members was absent, and Mr. Pintuff, as noted above, did not vote.) The majority's party line: It was time to move the process along to obtain agency inputs... the rules are not cast in stone ... there will be plenty of time to change them later.

At the October 1 Board meeting, Mr. Dugan joined the majority for a 6-0 vote to send the complete package to GORR. Mr. Pintuff again recused himself.


By placing speed over substance and by rubber-stamping the rules without a single comment or change, the Board showed its contempt for Great Sacandaga's stakeholders. The Board's claim that there is still lots of time for fine-tuning the rules is clearly suspect. Keep in mind that many Great Sacandaga property owners soon will be heading for warmer climes, making it difficult to communicate with them.

So we have our work cut out for us. I've talked to a couple of GORR attorneys, and they implied that if a rule attracts a high volume of comments, it will receive especially close scrutiny. So it's up to you and me. It's OUR quality of life and OUR property values that are at stake.

The BBAC will give you a heads up when the public comment period starts and will provide some talking points about rules that need to be changed. This is not the beginning of the end but rather the end of the beginning. Now the real battle starts.


By order of the Governor, the District and other state authorities are now required to videotape and webcast their proceedings. You can access webcasts of the District's most recent meetings by going to http://www.hrbrrd.com/boardmeetings.html (the link is at the top of the page). The closed-captioning feature is especially helpful. Warning: If you are a permit holder with a dial-up connection to the Internet and/or an old computer, you may have a problem. Unfortunately, you will be one of many.


Governor Spitzer has named Cecil Wray as Acting Chairman of the Adirondack Park Agency. A member of the APA board since 1999, Mr. Wray has chaired its enforcement and planning committees. Retired as a partner in a Manhattan law firm, he is a resident of Keene in the High Peaks region and of New York City.


The New York State Department of Transportation has expanded its web site detailing the condition of all 17,000 highway bridges in New York State. The site, www.nysdot.gov/bridgedata, now includes the state condition rating for each bridge as of August. 6, 2007, based upon Federal Highway Administration criteria. It makes for interesting reading.


The lake's level is at 754.20 feet above sea level -- more than 6 feet below target. This is the level that the water level tables specify for December 10.


The next HRBRRD Board meeting will be held at 9:00 a.m. on Monday, November 5, 2007, at Watertown City Hall, 245 Washington Street, Watertown.