Statement
Peter VanAvery, Batchellerville Bridge Action Committee
Town Hall Meeting
Broadalbin-Perth High School
July 27, 2009

I am Pete VanAvery, representing the Batchellerville Bridge Action Committee -- BBAC for short. My wife and I have owned a front-lot home in Edinburg for more than 40 years.

The BBAC was created in 2000. We focus on the interests of non-commercial access permit holders around the lake. When we perceive that our quality of life and property values are under attack by the State, we hit back.

Here are some issues we think are important:

First issue: When is the State going to replace the Batchellerville Bridge? It's 79 years old, and it's falling apart. The State began planning a replacement in 1999. Three years later, it announced a preferred design, which the BBAC endorsed. Then came a long squabble between the State and Saratoga County over who owns the existing bridge and who should pay for the new one. That wasn't settled until 2006 when the State agreed to pick up the bill.

The NYS Department of Transportation budgeted $39 million for the project. But the lowest bid came in $25 million higher. So the project is on hold while DOT looks for more funding and simplifies the design to bring down its cost. Last month, the State made a major effort to keep us from mowing the grass on our access permit areas. We wish someone on the State payroll was equally committed to building a bridge that will allow school buses to cross the lake safely.

Second issue: Today, Great Sacandaga's level is at 766 feet above sea level. That means two things: 1) According to the water level targets set in the Offer of Settlement, the lake's level is exactly where it should be. And 2) Even though we are approaching August 1, hundreds of property owners around the lake still don't have a beach because the water level is too high. My grandchildren are asking: "Where's the beach?" Clearly, the Offer of Settlement needs to be reopened and those water level targets need to be adjusted slightly.

Next issue: Many of our problems stem from the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District.

In 2005, the District began to update the rules for access permit holders. We were asked to speak out at numerous public hearings. We did! We were asked for written comments. We submitted hundreds of pages! We were asked to form an advisory committee. We volunteered for it! The upshot: The District ignored most of our key recommendations and never even had the decency to explain why.

Then, this past May, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation suddenly gave the District some "suggested changes" that included converting the access permit zone into a public park, open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. DEC's argument: The access permit zone is part of the forever-wild Forest Preserve and ought to be open to the public.

To its discredit, the District's board -- without any discussion -- rubber-stamped the "suggested changes" and rushed them on up the approval mill. It took a huge public outcry -- thousands of telephone calls, e-mail messages, and letters to the Governor's office -- to force him to terminate the rule-making process. It's dead now, but the State has threatened to try again soon.

The District's Board consists of seven people appointed by the Governor. George Pataki's appointees still hold a 4-3 majority, but that's about to change. The term of one of them has expired. Will Governor Paterson's people be an improvement? Of the three he has named so far, not one is a permit holder, and one of them, appointed in April 2008, has been a no show at about half of the board meetings. Not very promising!

The BBAC wants to get DEC and the Regulating District off our backs. The DEC's assertion that the access permit zone is part of the Forest Preserve needs to be tested in the courts. We look to the lawyers hired by the new Sacandaga Protection Committee, funded by our donations, to guide us out of this legal swamp.

As for what we'd like to see, we feel that the best solution would be for the State to sell access permit areas to their current holders -- back-lotters and front-lotters alike. From a legal point of view, this would be complicated and time-consuming -- but it could be done.

Thank you.