TO: Batchellerville Bridge Action Committee Members
FROM: Peter VanAvery
DATE: November 8, 2007

On October 1, the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District's Board voted to submit its proposed rules for Great Sacandaga Lake's access permit holders to the Governor's Office of Regulatory Reform (GORR) for review. That is the first step in a long approval process.

Although the Board claimed to be in a rush, nearly three weeks passed before GORR actually received the rules package. According to a telephone call I made a few minutes ago, GORR is still reviewing them.

A GORR representative told me that they have received a number of letters from the lake's stakeholders regarding those proposed rules. One of them is from me.

In that 6-page letter to Robert Hermann, GORR's Director, I point out: "Since these proposed rules will impact the quality of life and property values of so many people, it ... is totally unacceptable that their language is bloated, overly legalistic, poorly organized, repetitive, confusing, and sometimes even contradictory." I then provide examples, and I urge him to return the rules to the District with an admonition to rethink and revise them.

I sent a copy of that letter to Judith Enck, Deputy Director of the Environment, the highest environmental official in the Spitzer Administration (this is a new position not to be confused with that held by Pete Grannis, Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation).

In my cover letter to Deputy Director Enck, I make two requests: 1) that she ask the Governor to issue a moratorium on the rule-making process until his appointees to GORR, Encon, and the Adirondack Park Agency have had time to make an imprint on those organizations (this will make it clear who owns the praise/blame at the end of the game); and 2) that she head a movement in the Administration to remove the lake's state-owned buffer zone from the District's control and devise a way for us to take private ownership of our access permit segments.

You'll find links to those two letters on our web site ( Meanwhile, put yourself on record. Here are the addresses. Copy everybody:

Judith Enck, Deputy Director of the Environment
State Capitol
New York State Executive Chamber
Albany, NY 12224

Robert Hermann, Director
Governor's Office of Regulatory Reform
PO Box 2107
Albany, NY 12220-0107

Pete Grannis, Commissioner
NYS Department of Environmental Conservation
625 Broadway
Albany, NY 12233-1011

Curt Stiles, Chairman
Adirondack Park Agency
P.O. Box 99
Ray Brook, NY 12977

In an attempt to polish its image, the District's Board has awarded a one-year, $48,000 contract to Shorey Public Relations, a PR firm with offices in Washington, D.C., and Saratoga Springs, N.Y. The "blended billing rate for all staff: $153.00 (per hour)." Charge for a bylined article: $1250.00 and for an op-ed piece: $1875.00.

Under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Law, I obtained a copy of Shorey's proposal. Some fascinating quotes: "Simply put: The Great Sacandaga Lake is not a lake. It is a reservoir." "HRBRRD sees a strong need to re-educate the general public about this reservoir so they understand the situation, specifically, when the need to lower the shoreline arises." "No matter how we say it, this program will reach interested consumers and invite press coverage with a consistent message that will boost your image and educate the public on the need and importance of water control."

Gee, and I always thought the District's main problem was its long history of scandal and incompetence.

You may have heard that the contract includes preparation of two promotional DVDs, one for audiences in the Hudson River Area and one for the Black River Area. That is incorrect. That cost (not itemized in the proposal) will be extra. Is this contract the sort of District expenditure that permit holders will ultimately have to shoulder, at least in part? I suspect so.

I told a reporter that if Shorey's first order of business was not to recommend to the District that it reinstate the Town Meeting segment of Board meetings, then the District ought to tear up the contract. Well, Shorey's proposal, which I obtained later, says nothing about the Town Meeting. So draw your own conclusion.

The need to bring back the Town Meeting is underscored by what happened on September 10, when the public was treated to a Board two-fer: first a meeting of its Operations Committee, followed by a regular Board session. (Keep in mind that this was the same day that the Board approved the Shorey contract.)

The opening item on the Operations Committee's agenda was Chief Engineer Robert Foltan's take on a consultant's report on the Gate Intake Repair Project at the Conklingville Dam. The consultant felt that the project would be easier and less expensive if the reservoir's level could be lowered to 735 feet.

When audience members heard this, they looked at each other in disbelief. At 735 (20.5 feet below today's level), the fishery would suffer major damage. Since there was no Town Meeting at which they could complain, several took their concerns to the Daily Gazette, which ran a prominent story headlined "Plan to Lower Lake Draws Outrage."

When that story hit, District Executive Director Glenn LaFave hustled to announce that 735 was just an option and that the Board had made no final decision on the project. But if there had been a Town Meeting, audience members could have voiced their fears, and the Executive Director could have clarified the situation. As it was, he locked the barn door after the horse was gone. Result: More bad publicity.

Recent heavy rains have raised the lake. It is now at 755.68, only about 2.5 feet below target.