TO: Batchellerville Bridge Action Committee Members
FROM: Peter VanAvery
DATE: March 27, 2009

The next meeting of the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District's board will be held at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, April 7, 2009, at Croghan Fire Hall, 6860 Fire Hall Street, Croghan, NY.

I watched the webcast of the board's March meeting in Utica. Governor Paterson still has not appointed replacements for the three board members -- Anne McDonald, John K. Bartow, Jr., and Patrick Dugan -- whose terms have expired. They remain on the board until that happens.

The good news is that the subject of amending the by-laws to provide job security for the District's top management was not on the agenda. At the January board meeting in Latham, Ronald Pintuff and Patrick Dugan had proposed that this be discussed at the March meeting (the board did not meet in February).

Currently, members of the District's executive staff are hired by and serve at the pleasure of the board and can be released without cause. Mr. Pintuff and Mr. Dugan want the by-laws changed to state that holders of executive positions can be dismissed only for cause -- for example, failure to perform their duties effectively.

It would be a travesty to reward the managers responsible for the mess at the Regulating District by giving them additional job security. Mess? Just recall that access permit fees have been frozen since 2000 while the District has repeatedly tried to figure out what the system costs to operate. The District's inability to prove that the system is self-supporting led to the recent National Grid lawsuit that threatens the system's very existence (see January 28, 2009 BBAC Newsletter). Elimination of the permit system would result in chaos at Great Sacandaga.

The National Grid lawsuit was filed against both the Regulating District and the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. While Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has agreed to represent DEC, he has turned down the District's request to do the same for it. The latter has retained private counsel.

Here's a heads up for property owners near the west (Four Corners) abutment of the deteriorating Batchellerville Bridge. (Iím one of them.)

The replacement bridge (now on hold) will be built immediately south of the existing structure. After the new bridge is opened for traffic, the old one will be torn down.

Board Member John K. Bartow, Jr., has been thinking about what to do with the shoreline freed up by removal of the west abutment and has recommended that the board consider using it for construction of a public dock. I suspect that my neighbors will not greet this proposal with wild enthusiasm. Just think of the congestion and noise in this narrow strip of land and water constricted by the new bridge on one side and private homes on the other!

This proposal is just in the very early talking stages, and I doubt that Mr. Bartow even knows how much shoreline would be made available by removal of the old abutment. And then thereís the question of parking space, etc., etc. But to be forewarned....

At the March board meeting, Ronald Pintuff, chairman of the Permit System Committee, had nothing to report on the rule-revision process. The draft rules are still stuck at DEC.

Lack of funding continues to stall the Batchellerville Bridge Replacement Project. While the NYS Department of Transportation budgeted $39 million for the project, the lowest construction bid to date came in $25 million higher. Although some Federal stimulus funds will flow into the area, it looks as though other projects will receive priority.

So it's time for us to start raising a ruckus with state officials. The history of the bridge is a history of incompetence by our dysfunctional state government. The bridge was built in 1930 by the Regulating District, a state authority, as part of the construction of the river-regulating reservoir we now know as the Great Sacandaga Lake.

Somewhere along the line, the District got rid of this white-elephant bridge by dumping it on either the state or Saratoga County. Apparently, nobody thought the paperwork (if it ever existed) that conveyed ownership was worth keeping. After it became apparent that the bridge needed replacement, the state and the county argued for years over who actually owned it.

That debate was finally resolved in the fall of 2006. The state agreed to fund construction of a replacement bridge, following which the county would assume ownership and responsibility for maintaining the structure.

The Batchellerville Bridge is a vital gateway to the Southern Adirondacks and encourages the flow of tourist dollars to an economically depressed region of the state. Locally, creation of the reservoir in 1930 divided the Town of Edinburg into two halves. People who bought property and built homes along the South Shore assumed that the bridge would always be there, providing them with ready access to schools, grocery stores, a pharmacy, medical and dental care, restaurants, and service stations and other businesses.

As just one instance, how would kids who live on the South Shore Road reach Edinburg Common School if the bridge were closed? They'd face a 35-mile commute -- each way. Even if they were assigned to closer schools, the commute would be horrendous. With the loss of their attendance, Edinburg Common School might have to shut down. As for men and women who live north of the bridge and work to its south, the extra mileage caused by a drive around the lake would raise their fuel costs out of sight.

Our challenge is to convey to state officials the importance of the bridge. This means a flurry of letters and phone calls. If that bridge is important to you, this is not the time to let somebody else do the heavy lifting. If you need help in obtaining the addresses or phone numbers of state officials you'd like to contact, let me know.

The lake is at 755.8 feet above sea level -- about 7 feet above target.