TO: Batchellerville Bridge Action Committee Members
FROM: Peter VanAvery
DATE: June 25, 2009

The next meeting of the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District's board will be held at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, July 14, 2009, at Northville Central School, 131 South Third Street, Northville. Expect an update on the future of the controversial rule-revision process, currently dead in the water (see below). This is your opportunity to tell the board what you want!

Under normal conditions, the June 9 board meeting in remote Inlet, NY, would have attracted only a handful of public attendees. But this time, more than 100 angry people showed up, furious about the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation's plan to turn the access permit zone around Great Sacandaga Lake into a public park. Some 34 of them made statements during a Public Form that lasted nearly two hours!

I salute the folks who made that long drive to Inlet (93 miles away from my place in Edinburg). I won't forget the woman who said that her family had recently lost a young man in Iraq and who guaranteed the board that she'd never obey the proposed rule change requiring her to remove the flag pole erected on her access permit area. Nor the elderly gentleman who made a brief statement about the District's plan to deny him exclusive use of his permit area. His voice breaking with emotion, he asked: "How can you take this away?"

I urge you to watch the webcast of the meeting:

The rule-making process for Great Sacandaga Lake's access permit system has expired. After publishing the proposed rules in the NYS Register on June 11, 2008, the Regulating District had one year to complete the process or request an extension. On the day of the deadline, the Paterson Administration -- bowing to intense public pressure -- threw out the proposed rules. Since the District did not request an extension, the process is dead.

This does not mean that the District has given up. It has the option of restarting the rule-revision process. But if it does, it will have to go back to the beginning and start from scratch, including a full round of new public hearings. Judith Enck, the Governor's Deputy Secretary for the Environment, has hinted that this may indeed happen. She refers to the situation simply as a "time-out" that would give the state an opportunity "to fully analyze the implications of the changes."

Cynical observers suggest that the real reason for the Governor's action was his realization that outraging thousands of voters was not a smart move at a time when his popularity is plummeting. In the latest New York Times poll, only 21 percent of New York voters say they have a favorable view of him (vs. a 26 percent favorable view of former Governor Eliot Spitzer).

As for whether the state might restart the rule-revision process, Deputy Secretary Enck added: "Nothing is imminent. We will decide if we want to proceed with a new set of regulations or not. We're not abandoning any effort to change the system." This sounds ominously like Arnold the Terminator and his famous "I'll be back!" line.

Attendees at the July 14 board meeting in Northville will see two new faces:

David W. Berkstresser of the Black River Area has replaced At-Large Board Member Anne McDonald of Ticonderoga, whose term expired last September. He is an independent contractor in the Town of Webb. His term will run until September 1, 2013.

Paul J. Cornell of Johnstown has replaced Patrick Dugan of Edinburg, whose term expired last December. Mr. Cornell has worked for the NYS Department of Transportation for 32 years. He operates the Foothills Diving School and has been a certified scuba instructor for the last 12 years. Unlike Mr. Dugan, he is not a permit holder on Great Sacandaga Lake. His term will expire on December 20, 2013.

In its press release announcing Mr. Cornell's appointment, the District said: "His extensive knowledge of capital projects and heavy equipment will be an asset to the Regulating District. Also, as many of our dam projects involve underwater work, his experience as a scuba diver will be unique." In a press interview, he said he was not inclined to support a new rule-making process. (If you'd like, I can e-mail you a newspaper clip.)

With Mr. Dugan's departure, Saratoga County property owners will no longer be represented by a board member who is a permit holder. Philip Klein of Saratoga Springs (term expires September 1, 2011), the only other county resident, does not own lake property. Only one permit holder remains on the board: Ronald Pintuff of Sacandaga Park (term expires September 1, 2010).

Former Governor Pataki's appointees still hold a majority (4-3) on the board.

Patrick Dugan's final appearance as a board member came at the Inlet meeting. Speaking as a private citizen, he criticized DEC's attempt to deny permit holders the exclusive use of their permit areas as "vindictive." (Again, if you'd like to read a press clip, let me know.) If you encounter Mr. Dugan, you might want to thank him for his support. It is a rare board member who works to protect the public from the District rather than the other way around.

Town of Edinburg Supervisor Jean Raymond asked me to share this with you: "Thank all of you and your members, friends, neighbors, permit holders and other involved members of the lake community for all the time, effort, and activity that was put into the effort to stop the adoption of the proposed permit rules. It would not have been successful if it had not been for the massive lake community effort. I wish I could thank each and every person who was part of the effort personally. The letters, petitions, phone calls and other efforts did make a difference."

Because of the termination of the rule-revision process, the District will not be able to introduce higher permit fees on January 1, 2010. During the next fiscal year, which begins on July 1, 2009, permit system revenues will continue to be frozen around the $400,000 level. They've been unchanged since 2000.

The lake's level is at 768.54 feet above sea level, about 1 foot above target.