TO: Batchellerville Bridge Action Committee Members
FROM: Peter VanAvery
DATE: September 16, 2008

At its September meeting, the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District's board voted 4 to 3 to submit its controversial new rules for Great Sacandaga Lake's permit holders to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) for review. The tight vote was hardly a ringing endorsement of the rules package.

If DEC approves the rules, they will be returned to the board for a final vote on whether to adopt them. They could go into effect as early as January 1, 2009, bringing to an end a stormy rule-revision process that's lasted three years. Our goal: Prevent that from happening unless major changes are made.

The board itself is deeply divided on this subject. At the meeting, two of the three members of the Permit System Committee, which oversaw preparation of the rules, voted against submitting them to DEC. That's a dramatic vote of non-confidence.

One of the three "No" votes was cast by Patrick Dugan of Edinburg, who agreed with numerous critics that the rule book is overlong and overcomplicated, making it incomprehensible to permit holders.

Another came from Audrey Dunning, an attorney from the Black River Area. She felt the board had made significant changes in the text since June 11 publication in the State Register. In such cases, she noted, the Governor's Office of Regulatory Reform requires the rules to be republished, followed by a 30-day public comment period. The third "No" came from John Bartow, Jr., also from the Black River Area, who agreed with Ms. Dunning.

In an absolutely outrageous act of arrogance, Executive Director Glenn LaFave announced that this latest version of the rules package, with its numerous revisions, would not be posted on the District's web site for all to see. This marks a major variance from past practice and is censorship at its worst. So much for transparency at this rogue "public benefit corporation."

It is crucial that you join me in complaining to:

Governor David Paterson
State Capitol
Albany, NY 12224
(for e-mail, go to www.ny.gov/governor and click on "Contact the Governor")

Pete Grannis, Commissioner
NYS Department of Environmental Conservation
625 Broadway
Albany, NY 12233-1011
www.dec.ny.gov/about/407.html

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

Teresa R. Sayward
NYS Assembly
940 Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12248
saywart@assembly.state.ny.us


I was one of about a dozen members of the public who attended the board meeting. If your computer can handle it, I urge you to watch the web cast (go to www.hrbrrd.com and then click on "Board Meetings"). Here are some actions taken on the rules:

Item: One major change came in the process by which a permit holder can appeal a District decision. In the past, the appeal went to the District's Executive Director, which permit holders found a sham -- since he was the boss of the employee who had denied the appeal and had probably approved the decision in the first place. The board voted to remove the Executive Director from the appeal process.

Instead, appeals will go to the three-member Permit System Committee. If the committee votes 3-0 in support of the permit holder, the appeal will be granted. If the committee votes 2-1 against the appeal, the permit holder will have the option of taking his complaint to the full 7-member board. If the committee votes 3-0 against the appeal, the board will not consider it. A permit holder always has the option of hiring a lawyer and litigating under Article 78 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules.

Item: An estimated 900 front-lotters have a pedestrian footpath running across their permit area. Mandated by the District, these footpaths allow back-lotters to reach otherwise inaccessible permit areas. Since the District disclaims liability for accidents that happen on the access permit zone, these front-lotters have worried that they could be sued by footpath users.

The board responded to this concern by voting to classify the strip of land that constitutes a pedestrian footpath as an "unallocated" portion of the front-lot permit areas it crosses. The District will assume liability for it and also maintain it. That's progress. But there's a catch! Beginning in 2010, permit holders will have to pay the full cost of the permit system. How much will it cost to maintain those footpaths and buy insurance coverage? And why should all 4,700 permit holders have to help pay for them?

Item: The rule book will include a statement that the total number of back-lot access permits will be frozen as of the date the new rules become effective. This is in response to criticism of the board's plan to expand the eligibility zone for back-lot permits, which has the potential to increase political pressure on the District to carve additional back-lot permits out of permit areas currently held by front-lotters.

Item: The board decided that a boat can be moored 100 feet -- not 80 feet -- from the shoreline. This is good news for permit holders who need to moor boats in shallow areas of the lake.

Item: When it comes time to renew an access permit, the total fee is the sum of a flat fee (the same for each access permit) plus a per-foot frontage fee (based on the width of each access permit area). The proposed rules call for setting the total fee so that 50 percent of revenues are generated by the flat fee and 50 percent by the frontage fee. But last month, Board Member Dugan introduced an alternative rule in which the flat fee would provide 75 percent of revenues and the frontage fee 25 percent.

In my statement during the public forum at the beginning of the meeting, I told the board that like Mr. Dugan, I am a front-lotter and that his proposal would save me (and him) money. But I reminded the board that back-lotters are limited to just a 10-foot-wide beach and, in the interest of fair play, I urged that the 50-50 formula be retained. The board agreed.


The reservoir's level is at 762 feet above sea level, just a few inches below target.