TO: Batchellerville Bridge Action Committee Members
FROM: Peter VanAvery
DATE: December 5, 2007

The next meeting of the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District's Board will be held on Monday, December 10, 2007, at Mayfield Municipal Complex, 13 North School Street, Mayfield. An Operations Committee meeting will be held at 9:00 a.m., followed by the Board Meeting at 10:00 a.m. Both meetings are open to the public.

The original timetable for the Regulating District's proposed new rules for access permit holders on Great Sacandaga Lake called for them to clear the required State review process in time for final approval at the December 10 Board meeting, following which they would take effect on January 1, 2008. That is not going to happen.

On October 17, the District transmitted the proposed rules to the Governor's Office of Regulatory Reform for its review. They are still under study by that agency. When GORR turns them loose, the next step is publication in the State Register (a two-week process), followed by a minimum 45-day public comment period. After that, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (which already has a preliminary copy) gets its official shot at them. So there's still a long path ahead.

What is expected to happen is that the Board will vote to extend the existing (1993) rules for another year. Incidentally, even though GORR has had the proposed rules for more than a month, it is still receiving letters from access permit holders. Congratulations to all who spoke up for your rights! If you have not contacted GORR, you still have time. Keep up the pressure.

Soon after Governor Spitzer took office, he issued an executive order requiring state authorities like the Regulating District to videotape and webcast their Board meetings. This has been an invaluable help in finding out what the Board is doing when it meets at locations inconvenient for property owners in the Hudson River watershed.

The Board holds 10 regularly scheduled meetings each year: 5 in the Hudson River Area and 5 in the Black River Area. Since about 85 percent of the District's income comes from the Hudson River Area, eight of those 10 meetings should be held in our area. We need to work harder to bring this about.

A year ago, at its December 11, 2006 board meeting in Johnstown, Board member Arthur Eyre responded to an access permit holder's complaint that the Board had "hid out" by holding its October 2006 meeting at the Stillwater Reservoir near Lowville. Here how the minutes of the meeting sum up Mr. Eyre's remarks: "The Board seeks to afford all areas under our jurisdiction an opportunity to host a meeting. He doesn't believe that one meeting at the Stillwater Reservoir in the modern history of the Board is excessive."

Well, in October 2007, the Board again met at the Stillwater Reservoir. Number of public attendees: zero. In November 2007, the Board met at Watertown. Number of public attendees: one. If that isn't hiding out, what is?

The webcast of the Board meeting at the Stillwater Reservoir was especially instructive. Several Board members had signed up for a boat tour of the Stillwater Reservoir later that day. After the meeting was adjourned, and while the audio portion of the webcast was still running, an unidentified Board member asked if the public was invited on the boat tour. Someone answered "yes," but pointed out that no members of the public were present. This was followed by laughter.

Are you laughing?

At Board meetings in September and October, acting on the advice of the District's counsel, Board member Ronald Pintuff of Sacandaga Park recused himself from voting on whether to send the proposed new rules to GORR. (Board member Patrick Dugan of Edinburg ignored that advice and voted.) Many permit holders are not happy with Mr. Pintuff's decision. If you watched the webcast of the District's Board meeting in Watertown, you heard him say: "I have received a number of phone calls that have not been very polite and have seen lots of people around the lake in a number of situations that have not been very pleasant."

What exactly did Counsel William Busler advise? Here's an extract from the official minutes of the September 27, 2007, Board meeting:

"Members of the Board who are also permit holders should recuse themselves from voting on the proposed rules. This is for two reasons. First, the Ethics Commission opinion which sets the ground rules for permit holders to serve on the Board is not especially clear as to when a permit holder may vote on permit system issues without running afoul of the Ethics law. Second, the opinion of the Ethics Commission which guides the Board in this manner is informal only. Moreover, the opinion therein is not legally binding upon the Ethics Commission. Therefore, in order to avoid any inconsistencies or problems or without running afoul of the Ethics statue (sic), it is Counsel's opinion the members who are permit holders should recuse themselves."

Everything clear now? As I keep saying, you couldn't make up this stuff.

Several years ago, as a cost-savings measure and as a way to improve internal communications, then Executive Director Richard Lefebvre proposed closing the District's Albany office and consolidating its members at the Sacandaga Field Office in Mayfield. At its September 2007 meeting, the Board put the project on indefinite hold by voting to suspend its contract with C.T. Male Associates. Reason: The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is requiring extensive and expensive repairs to guarantee the safety of the Conklingville Dam, and they must receive priority. How much has this office consolidation project cost the District so far? I'll see if the Freedom of Information Law process can provide the answer.

After hitting a low point of 753.4 feet on October 22, the lake's level has rebounded up to 758.8. The level is now about 1 foot above target. This is a big improvement over this date last year, when the lake was at 769.8 and eroding the shoreline.