TO: Batchellerville Bridge Action Committee Members
FROM: Peter VanAvery
DATE: March 28, 2008

The Governor's Office of Regulatory Reform has completed the first stage of its lengthy (five months and counting) review of the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District's proposed new rules for access permit holders on Great Sacandaga Lake. GORR has now forwarded the rules package -- with its recommendation -- to three individuals in the Office of the Governor: the Secretary to the Governor, the Deputy Secretary to the Governor, and the Director of the Division of the Budget.

GORR's web site tells us that, in consultation with those individuals, it may 1) authorize publication in the State Register; 2) prohibit the Regulating District from proposing or revising a previously proposed rule; or 3) prohibit the District from proposing or revising a previously proposed rule unless specified changes are incorporated.

It will probably be a while before we know what GORR recommended. Gov. David Paterson may want to make some staff changes in the Office of the Governor. So the progress of the District's proposed rules through the approval mill may be on hold until the dust settles.

The schedule for the Batchellerville Bridge Replacement Project calls for the design to be completed this summer, with construction beginning this fall. The project's completion date: November 2011.

Here's the complete text of a press release issued on March 7 by the Regulating District:

Mayfield, NY -- The Hudson River-Black River Regulating District requests information from the public regarding the identity of an intruder who attempted to break into the Conklingville Dam sometime between 4 p.m. on March 3 and 8 a.m. on March 4. The intruder cut fencing and entered the restricted area at the dam in the Town of Hadley. The person, who may have had accomplices, unsuccessfully attempted to enter the dam facility through locked hatches.

"Due to our many layers of security, the intruder was not able to enter the dam or gatehouse structure and at no time were operations compromised," stated Glenn A. LaFave, Executive Director of the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District. "The Regulating District takes dam security very seriously. In fact, at the February 11, 2008 board meeting, the Regulating District board proactively approved the purchase of video cameras, monitoring instruments, and other security devices for the Conklingville Dam. With these enhancements, the Conklingville Dam will be safer and more secure. In the meantime, other security measures have been increased at the dam."

Anyone with information regarding this incident, or who observed suspicious activity near the Conklingville Dam, is asked to contact the New York State Police at 518-583-7000.

The incident at the Conklingville Dam raises some troubling concerns:

First, the press release announcing the break-in generated fairly widespread media coverage. I saw the story in two newspapers and on news broadcasts on two separate TV stations. Result? Lots of people now know that the dam is not staffed on weekdays between 4:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. This is an unhealthy situation. And is any staff at the dam on weekends?

Second, the terrorist strike on 9/11 took place six-and-one-half years ago. Why is the board only now worrying about security at the dam? The press release brags that at its February meeting, "the board proactively approved the purchase of video cameras, etc." In this context, to use the word "proactively" in connection with the board is an insult to our intelligence.

Third, the new TV cameras and other security gear to be installed at the dam will be fed to a remote control room. If an incursion is detected, how long will it take law-enforcement personnel to arrive on-site? Will response time be fast enough to prevent a possible disaster?

Fourth, in a second press release, dated March 14, 2008, the District announced that board members (the release does not specify how many) had visited the dam to inspect the grounds after the attempted break-in. States the release: "The board discovered that all safety measures were up to task. It was also determined that a person acting alone or with accomplices would have little to no chance of affecting the flows of the water. The multi-layers of security at the dam were found to be more than substantial." I doubt that any board member possesses the technical credentials required to validate such claims. One mission of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is to reduce America's vulnerability to terrorism, and I certainly hope that its experts are involved in strengthening the dam's security.

Finally, when the reservoir is full (which it soon will be), it will contain 283 billion gallons of pent-up water. Considering the implications of an uncontrolled release, having the dam staffed with a human presence 24/7 would seem to me to be a desirable and inexpensive investment. If the District is hard up for money, I would suggest that it redirect some of its current expenditures, such as its $48,000 annual contract with the PR firm it hired to improve its image.

The reservoir's level is currently at about 761 feet above sea level, 13 feet above target.

The next meeting of the Regulating District's board will be held at 10:00 a.m. on Monday, April 14, 2008 at Lowville Town Hall, 5533 Bostwick Street, Lowville, NY.