TO: Batchellerville Bridge Action Committee Members
FROM: Peter VanAvery
DATE: May 10, 2008

This is a continuation of my comments in last month's BBAC Newsletter about why the Federal license on Great Sacandaga Lake needs to be amended.

We will be stuck with this 40-year license for a long time. It doesn't expire until 2042. Let's start by going back to the basics:

The license requires the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District "to operate the Great Sacandaga Lake to achieve the following objectives while maintaining the goal of controlling floods on the Hudson River:

"• Maintaining the lake at the targeted elevations during the late winter consistent with the use of storage for flow augmentation;

"• Providing flows in the Hudson River to maintain water quality and fish habitat;

"• Targeting higher than current lake elevations to enhance fall lake recreation;

"• Minimizing energy losses to affected hydroelectric projects by the aggressive use of storage while maintaining the other objectives;

"• Enhancement of whitewater recreation on the Sacandaga River;

"• Providing base flows in the Sacandaga River."

Note that something important is glaringly absent. Not a single one of these "operating objectives" has any relationship to the needs and interests of the vast majority of property owners around the reservoir!

For example, how does this list apply to YOU? Are you the owner of a hydroelectric power plant? Do you operate a whitewater rafting business on the Sacandaga River below Stewart's Bridge Dam? Are you the mayor of a downstream city that needs flood protection in the spring?

As for the single objective that might apply to you -- "targeting higher than current lake elevations to enhance fall recreation" -- isn't it true that the end of the recreational season for most people is dictated more by school and work schedules and the weather than by water levels? A couple of years ago, I walked a petition around my neighborhood on the weekend after Labor Day. I found that about 90 percent of the seasonal homes were already closed down.

So are higher water levels through mid-October worth the numerous occasions when the lake overflows its banks? Does this "operating objective" justify the loss of the 4th of July weekend for recreational purposes in 2006 because the reservoir was brimful, turgid, and speckled with floating debris? Do its benefits outweigh the destructive effects of the erosion that has chewed away your shoreline and toppled thousands of trees?

Also, do you care that your dock was frozen in ice and crushed in December 2003 or December 2005 or December 2006 at a time when it should have been sitting on dry lake bottom? If your shoreline is on steep terrain, do you and your kids and grandkids mind not having a beach until late July or early August?

Incidentally, the license brags that it "will have many beneficial effects." Among them: "reducing the potential for erosion of the shorelines." That's nonsense! The exact opposite has happened.

In short, do any of the license's objectives represent what YOU want? Clearly, the license needs to be amended. And remember: What's good for you is good for the local economy. So keep up the pressure on your elected representatives. And thanks to those who sent me their ideas and recommendations. Keep them coming.

To be continued.


The April meeting of the Regulating District's board marked the beginning of the end of its domination by Pataki appointees. At the meeting, Audrey Dunning, an attorney in Herkimer, was sworn in, replacing Arthur Eyre, also of Herkimer. She is the first appointee of the Spitzer/Paterson Administration.

The terms of three additional Pataki appointees will expire by year-end: Anne McDonald of Ticonderoga (September 1), John Bartow of Adams Center (December 7), and Patrick Dugan of Edinburg (December 22). (Mr. Dugan has missed all three board meetings held so far this year.) Their replacements will give Governor Paterson a 4 to 3 majority on the seven-member board.

It will be interesting to see if this change affects the District's staffing. The Executive Director is hired by the board and serves at its discretion. Will the Governor want to have his own person at the helm of a state authority capable, if poorly managed, of generating vast amounts of unfavorable publicity? Stay tuned.


At its April meeting, the board passed a resolution that answered a long-standing question: Who is liable for accidents that happen on pedestrian footpaths? The resolution says the District is.

Here's the background: A pedestrian footpath allows an authorized back-lotter to cross a front-lotter's permit area to reach the former's otherwise inaccessible (landlocked) permit area. It is estimated that as many as 900 front-lotters are affected by this practice.

Currently, the rules absolve the District of any liability for accidents anywhere on the access permit zone around the reservoir. Before an applicant is awarded an access permit, he/she must agree to assume liability for that specific permit area.

Many front-lotters with pedestrian footpaths running across their frontage view this as unfair. Their argument: Since the District imposes the footpath and its users on us, why should we be liable for accidents on it?

This is where the new resolution comes in. It will eventually result in a new rule saying that the narrow strip of state land beneath a footpath will be "unallocated" -- in other words, not officially assigned to the front-lotter. Thus, the latter will not hold liability for it (unless his/her actions cause a loss or damage). Executive Director Glenn LaFave characterized this change as a "minor" amendment to the proposed rules now under review at GORR.

"Minor" or not, the change will have a ripple effect on the wording of other proposed rules. For example, Rules 4.3 (Non-Liability for Injury or Damage) and 5.11 (Acceptance of Access Permits Exempts State, District, and Board From Liability) exempt the District from liability for loss or damage incurred on the access permit zone. They will need to be fine-tuned. Rule 4.20 (Maintenance of Access Permit Areas) sticks the permit holder with responsibility for keeping the permit area "clean and sanitary." If the land under a footpath is unallocated, who will be responsible for maintaining it? And so on.


The reservoir's level is currently about 768 feet above sea level, putting it 2.3 feet above target.