TO: Batchellerville Bridge Action Committee Members
FROM: Peter VanAvery
DATE: June 17, 2009

A new Sacandaga Protection Committee has been formed to help protect the environmental, economic, and legal interests of the Great Sacandaga Lake community. The BBAC is one of numerous lake groups that participated in strategy sessions leading to its creation. The Daily Gazette story reprinted below provides details.


DAILY GAZETTE
Schenectady, NY
June 17, 2009

GREAT SACANDAGA LAKE

New group says it'll fight changes to permit system

BY JASON SUBIK, Gazette Reporter

A group of property owners around the Great Sacandaga Lake has formed what they are calling the Great Sacandaga Lake Protection Committee as a means of fighting future attempts to change the lake access permit system.

Great Sacandaga Lake Association President Peter Byron said the idea for the protection committee stems from a strategy session his organization held May 28 in opposition to proposed new rules for the lake's decades-old permit system.

Last week, Gov. David Paterson ordered the proposed reforms dropped after a flurry of protest over the issue. The changes, some of them added at the behest of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, included an end to permit holders' exclusive use of state land around the lake and a ban on landscaping of the land. State officials said Paterson's decision means any new regulation of the lake access permit system will need to start over again from the beginning with the Hudson River Black River Regulating District Board of Directors, which administers the lake and its permit system.

Judith Enck, state deputy secretary for the environment, said the administration still views the Sacandaga shoreline as state forest preserve land and has not given up on reforming the permit system, but she said the administration does not support returning the lands to a "natural state," a viewpoint asserted by district and DEC officials at earlier stages of the failed reform effort.

Byron said members of the lake community remain concerned the state may attempt to impose new regulations again. He said many organizations on the lake, including his own, are prohibited by charter from hiring a lawyer or raising funds for legal activity. He said the GSL Protection Committee will help the lake community organize legal challenges to future attempts to reform the permit system.

"My understanding is they are interviewing attorneys. They're trying to answer some of the questions that are still outstanding on the permit issues," Byron said. "One of the issues that hasn't been resolved is whether the property around the lake is forest preserve. That's certainly the issue they’re looking at."

DEC asserted approval authority over any new HRBRRD regulations regarding the lake because it views the shoreline around the man-made lake as state forest preserve.

DEC spokeswoman Lori Severino said DEC took the position that the land is forest preserve during a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission relicensing proceeding in the 1990s. She said the land meets the statutory definition of forest preserve because it is located in one of the listed counties and not included in any of the statutory exceptions for forest preserve.

The GSL Protection Committee announced its existence Tuesday in a news release put out by the Fulton County Regional Chamber of Commerce. Committee Co-Chair Joe Sullivan stated the group's mission is to protect the environmental, economic and legal interests of the lake community. Sullivan could not be reached for comment but made statements in the news release.

"We want to make sure that our rights as permit holders and caretakers of this land are upheld for the benefit of everyone who enjoys the lake. We invite those who use the Great Sacandaga as a recreational destination and treasure its beauty to help us in our endeavors," he said.

Northville Mayor James Groff also issued a news release Tuesday explaining his intention to prepare his village board for a future legal battle with the state if another attempt to reform the access permit system is initiated by the HRBRRD board of directors. He said village interests could be affected by declining property values if lake access were allowed to the general public instead of only access permit holders whose lakeside properties have values pegged to exclusive access.

"Sooner or later there is probably going to be some litigation over this. We'll either be a litigant or help with the litigation," Groff said. "They’re not going to quit and we need to be prepared. This is not DEC land and it shouldn't be DEC land. It's a man-made lake, it's not a natural lake. If they want things 'back to nature', then take the dam out."

The Great Sacandaga Lake was created in the 1920s by state officials who wanted to control flooding of the Hudson River.

Northville Treasurer Nathaniel Matthews said the village has $15,000 in a fund set aside for legal issues.