TO: Batchellerville Bridge Action Committee Members
FROM: Peter Van Avery
DATE: April 29, 2010

The Batchellerville Bridge Replacement Project is moving ahead. The NYS Department of Transportation has invited contractors to submit bids, which will be opened on May 6. It has a budget of $58 million for the project. You can take a look at NYSDOT's ad by going to

It includes this statement: "Bidders should be advised that award of these contracts may be contingent upon the passage of a budget appropriation bill by the Legislature and Governor of the State of New York." That bill is currently stalled in the Legislature.

At the March board meeting, attorneys representing five counties -- Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Warren, and Washington -- contested the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District's emergency plan to bill them a total of $4.5 million for the flood-control benefits they receive from the Conklingville Dam.

This emergency assessment, instituted for the first time, is designed to help the District escape from a financial crisis brought on by a 2008 U.S. Court of Appeals decision that it could no longer bill downstream hydro plants for its operating expenses. This shut off more than 80% of its income.

I'm certain that you will be shocked, shocked to learn that the the board gave the counties' legal arguments the same weight with which it reacts to statements from the public. That's right, it didn't even pretend to give them consideration. Instead, it promptly gave the District a green light to issue the emergency assessment.

Here's how the new assessment would impact the five counties: Albany ($1,748,166 or 39.3% of the total cost), Rensselaer ($961,675 or 21.6%), Saratoga ($1,270,897 or 28.5%), Warren ($297,216 or 6.7%), and Washington ($175,249 or 3.9%).

The counties' response: "See you in court!" Although this emergency assessment was designed to bring in funds for the District's current fiscal year, which ends June 30, these lawsuits could take months/years to settle. The District expects to start running in the red in August. One obvious question: Will this result in layoffs at the District?

At the March board meeting, several attorneys representing the five counties made reference to a document titled "Hudson River Flow Regulation Benefit Study," prepared for the District in 2003 by Gomez and Sullivan Engineers, P.C., of Utica, N.Y. (The text is at

During the negotiations that led to the 2002 Federal Energy Regulatory Commission license on the reservoir/dam/power plant, the District agreed to conduct a study that would identify additional beneficiaries that could be assessed for maintenance and operating expenditures. The 84-page Gomez and Sullivan report was the result. But the board never accepted it.

The report lists 10 benefits created by construction of the Conklingville Dam and Great Sacandaga Lake: increased real estate values for lakeshore property, lake recreation, hydroelectric power generation, flood protection, waste assimilation, whitewater recreation, water supply, downstream water recreation, downstream fisheries enhancement, and navigation.

To give you a sample of the counties' complaints, let me list a few of the many points made by Attorney Mark M. Rider, Esq., representing Saratoga County:

You'll find texts of the counties' complaints at

The District's seven-member board suddenly has two vacant seats.

The resignation of Audrey Dunning, Governor Paterson's first appointee (2008), was announced last month. Injured in an automobile accident, she had missed a number of board sessions. The other vacant seat was held by John K. Bartow, Jr., appointed by Governor Pataki in 2006. Although his term officially expired in December 2008, he continued to serve through the March board meeting. A board member with an expired term may continue until he or she is replaced. No reason was given for his departure.

When the seats are filled, the Governor's appointees will, for first time, hold a 4-3 majority over Former Governor Pataki's appointees. Considering the numerous problems faced by the District, I can't imagine that the list of people interested in a board seat is very long.

The next meeting of the Regulating District's board is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, May 11, 2010, at Johnstown Town Hall, 2753 State Highway 29, Johnstown, N.Y.

The lake is at 765.7 feet above sea level -- about 2 feet above target.