Peter VanAvery, Batchellerville Bridge Action Committee
Hudson River-Black River Regulating District Board Meeting
Northville, NY
July 14, 2009

So the rule-making process for permit holders on Great Sacandaga Lake is dead -- at least for now. Amount of time you spent on the effort: 53 months. Number of accomplishments: zero (unless you count driving your permit holders to new heights of dislike and distrust).

From January 2005, when the Board launched the rule-making process, until June 2009, when the Governor's Office drove a stake through its heart, you asked us to speak out at numerous public hearings. We did! You asked for written comments. We submitted hundreds of pages! You asked us to form an advisory committee. We volunteered for it! The result of our cooperation: You ignored most of our key recommendations! What a waste of our time!

I was present at your May 12 board meeting in Johnstown when you told us that the Department of Environmental Conservation had made major changes to the proposed rules. DEC wanted to reverse 78 years of practice and convert the access permit zone into a public park open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

What was especially appalling about that May 12 board meeting was the fact that, with essentially no discussion, you rubber-stamped DEC's "suggested changes" and voted to forward them to the Governor's Office of Regulatory Reform. You must have known what the lake community's reaction would be. Why didn't you tell DEC that it could take its suggested changes and stuff them in its hat?

To me, the answer is pretty obvious. Only four out of seven board members showed up for that May 12 meeting. And all four of you shared something in common -- you were all appointees of former Governor George Pataki, a Republican. I believe you recognized that the bone-headed decision to open the access permit zone to the public was guaranteed to bring down a firestorm on Governor David Paterson, a Democrat. His public opinion ratings were already in the tank. So why stand in the way?

As expected, that firestorm did develop. The Governor's Office received thousands of outraged phone calls, e-mail messages, and letters. Well over 100 angry permit holders made the long drive to remote Inlet, NY, to attend the June 9 board meeting, and 34 of them got up to give you a piece of their minds.

Two days later, Judith Enck, Deputy Secretary for the Environment, who is above DEC in the State pecking order, pulled the plug on the rule-making process. It's all over. If you want to change your rules sometime in the future, you will have to start from scratch.

Deputy Secretary Enck says that the current situation is simply a "time-out" that will give the State an opportunity "to fully analyze the implications of the changes." This sounds ominously like Arnold the Terminator and his famous line: "I'll be back!" She also said: "We want to encourage public input in this process." Excuse me, but haven't we just been there and done that?

This rule-making crisis lasted exactly 30 days -- from May 12 to June 11. To permit holders, it seemed like an eternity. Throughout, you showed total indifference to the distress experienced by Great Sacandaga's 4,800 permit holders -- hard-working men and women who have invested large sums of money and sweat equity in their lake homes -- and paid correspondingly high property taxes. Nor did you consider the potential ripple effect on local towns and villages as lake property values tumbled.

It's hard to believe that you will be allowed to resume the rule-making process before the next gubernatorial election in November 2010. Stirring up a hornet's nest of angry voters doesn't seem like good politics -- especially with an already unpopular Governor at the helm.

But considering that good judgment has been in short supply throughout this fiasco, I don't exclude the possibility that rule-making will be back in the short-term future. If it is, I hope that you and the State have learned a lesson. If you haven't, we'll be happy to teach it all over again.

Thank you.