TO: Batchellerville Bridge Action Committee Members
FROM: Peter VanAvery
DATE: June 6, 2008

After an 8-month delay, the Governor's Office of Regulatory Reform (GORR) has given the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District a green light to submit its proposed rules for Great Sacandaga Lake's permit system to the NYS Department of State for publication in the State Register.

The publication date (on or around Wednesday, June 11) will immediately kick off what could be a final 45-day public comment period that will end no earlier than July 28.

The District has tentatively scheduled a special Board meeting for August 11 in Northville to consider the public comments. After formally adopting the rules, the District will forward them to the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) for review and approval. After DEC approval, the new rules could be implemented in 2009, with the exception of permit system fees which have been capped until 2010.

However, if the public comment period results in "substantial changes" to the proposed rules, they must be republished in the State Register, followed by an additional 30-day comment period. But if you attended the May 12 board meeting at Indian Lake or watched the webcast, it was clear that the board intends to ram through the rules without further delay. (Six of the seven board members are lame-duck Pataki appointees.)

During the rule-revision process, now in its third year, the Regulating District has repeatedly solicited the public's wishes only to ignore the vast majority of them, infuriating the lake community. An advisory committee created by the District saw many of its key recommendations meet the same fate. To get the changes we want, we must do a better job of enlisting the support of government officials to assist us in our fight against this rogue state authority.

Since these proposed rules will impact the quality of life and property values of so many people, it also is totally unacceptable that their language is overly legalistic, poorly organized, repetitive, confusing, and sometimes even contradictory. The District's current rule book, adopted in 1993, opens with a lean set of definitions -- just 11 in total. The proposed rule book has 54 definitions -- a 500% increase.

As for the rules themselves, they have more than doubled in number: 48 rules in 1993 and 107 rules now. There also are 17 pages of appendices. Clarity and conciseness have been swamped by turgidity and bloat. Many suspect that the District will need to hire additional employees to interpret/enforce this new rule book. That's an infuriating prospect. Beginning in 2010, we permit holders will have to pay the full cost of the permit system as calculated by the District.

So get ready for a final battle. As a first step, familiarize yourself with the proposed rules. You'll find them on the District's web site at Public comment forms and related information will be posted at Copies of the rules and comment forms also will be available at the District's Albany and Sacandaga (Mayfield) offices. Please note: No public meetings will be held.

When you submit your comment forms to the District, it is extremely important that you send copies to the following and to any other government officials you favor:

Governor David Paterson
State Capitol
Albany, NY 12224
(For e-mail, go to and click on "Contact the Governor"

Judith Enck
Deputy Secretary for the Environment
State Capitol
Albany, NY 12224

Robert Hermann, Director
Governor's Office of Regulatory Reform
PO Box 2107
Albany, NY 1220-0107

Teresa R. Sayward
NYS Assembly
940 Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12248

With GORR's approval in hand, the District's board, meeting on May 12 at Indian Lake, voted to authorize publication in the State Register. This agenda item provoked an interesting interchange between two members of the board's Permit System Committee: Chair Ronald Pintuff of Sacandaga Park and Patrick Dugan of Edinburg.

Mr. Pintuff wanted to rush the proposed rules into print. But Mr. Dugan disagreed, arguing that publication should be delayed long enough to allow the public comment period to include the month of July, when seasonal property owners are back at the lake in full force. This would assure, he said, that they could not complain that the District played tricks and took action when they weren't around.

In response, Mr. Pintuff complained that the rule-revision process was in its third year and that the District wouldn't hear anything from permit holders that it hadn't already heard. To that, Mr. Dugan retorted: "Hearing and listening are two different things." Zing! Mr. Dugan prevailed. Incidentally, his term ends this coming December, while Mr. Pintuff will serve until September 2010. It's a pity that the situation isn't the other way around.

I e-mailed the following message to Executive Director Glenn LaFave on May 22:

"When the proposed new rules are published in the State Register, will they include all changes made to date?

"For example, at its April meeting, the board passed a resolution that would lead to an amended rule declaring pedestrian footpaths as 'unallocated' portions of permit areas. In other words, as I understand it, the narrow strip of state land that constitutes a footpath would not be assigned to the permit holder. This would free the latter from liability for that strip of land (unless his/her actions cause a loss or damage). Instead, the District would assume liability.

"Will this amended rule appear in the State Register?

"Also, at the board meeting, you characterized this change as a 'minor' amendment. But what the board failed to consider is that it will have a ripple effect on 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. Won't they 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? The District?

"Finally, I understand that the side boundaries of some footpaths are vague. This could complicate the question of who is liable for what.

"I hope that what we permit holders read in the State Register will be an up-to-date version of the proposed rules and that we will not be hit with surprises somewhere down the road."

I still await an answer.

The lake's elevation is around 767 feet above sea level -- about one foot below target.

The next meeting of the District's board will be held on Monday, June 9, at the Town Offices, Town of Webb, 183 Park Avenue, Old Forge, NY.

The next issue of the BBAC Newsletter will deal with some controversial rules that you may want to see changed.