TO: Batchellerville Bridge Action Committee Members
FROM: Peter Van Avery
DATE: May 18, 2010

The incompetence of the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District's management, aided and abetted by an ineffective Board, would be laughable if you and I could somehow figure out a way to avoid the collateral damage that threatens our quality of life and property values.

My statement at the May 11, 2010, board meeting in Johnstown focused on this issue. I thought you might be interested in what I said. You'll find the full text below.


Statement by Peter Van Avery, Batchellerville Bridge Action Committee, at Hudson River-Black River Regulating District Board Meeting, Johnstown, NY
May 11, 2010

I'm Pete Van Avery, representing the Batchellerville Bridge Action Committee.

I'm addressing these remarks to the three newest members of the Board. First of all, welcome. Second, we hope you understand that the actions you take -- or don't take -- will have a serious impact on the quality of life and the property values of the 4,800 access permit holders on Great Sacandaga Lake.

And it's not just us permit holders. When we get hurt, the surrounding towns and villages hurt, too, because our taxes and expenditures supply the economic lifeblood that stimulates the local economy.

We look to you to bring new life, energy, and leadership to this Board. The Regulating District is a small public benefit corporation, and it ought to be quick on its feet in reacting to challenges. Unfortunately, the exact opposite is the norm. The old Board has repeatedly failed to apply its spurs to this sluggish creature, and we hope you will do far better.

Let me give you two examples of how the old Board failed its responsibilities. Let's begin in 2003 when the Board of that era sprang a surprise on the lake's permit holders. Out of nowhere, it suddenly proposed raising permit fees by an astounding 1,000 percent. This provoked a firestorm of protests, and -- when challenged to justify this action -- the Board quickly backed down. It put a freeze on permit fees, and they've been stuck at 2003 levels ever since.

The permit system is supposed to pay for itself. It is not an expense that can be charged against the downstream beneficiaries. But back in 2003, the Board didn't have a clue as to what it cost to run the permit system. Seven years later, it still doesn't have the answer.

Figuring out what the access permit system costs can hardly be considered rocket science. After all, the District is a piddlingly small organization with only about 30 employees, many of whom have nothing to do with permits. It's a task a successful business person might take a month or so to complete, working in his or her spare time.

The Board's approach to this problem was to hire a consultant. But he quickly gave up. After he looked at the District's books, he found that they lacked the data he needed. So the Board hired a second consultant ... this time to set up a methodology designed to collect the needed information. The District is now applying that methodology, and we await the results.

Last year, National Grid got tired of waiting. It filed a lawsuit against the District, alleging that the permit system "was without statutory authority, illegal, arbitrary and capricious, and thereby, null and void." It claimed that permit fees have not covered all of the permit system's costs and that downstream beneficiaries have been illegally billed for part of the tab.

Ask yourself this: If the District cannot document the cost of the access permit system over the years, how can it counter National Grid's argument? This lawsuit should send chills up the spine of every access permit holder. If the permit system is scrapped, property values around the lake could plummet. What is absolutely sickening is that this mess could have been easily avoided if the Board had forced the District's management to do its job.

That's just one example of the District's incompetence. Here's a second:

As the result of a Federal court ruling that the District cannot bill downstream hydro plants for the reservoir's taxes and other operating expenses, the organization will start running in the red this August. The District should have been better prepared for this emergency.

The Offer of Settlement, signed by the District in 2000, recognized that since the creation of Great Sacandaga Lake in 1930, "the properties and entities potentially benefiting from the operation of Conklingville Dam have changed." In this document, the District committed itself to initiating a reassessment procedure and to complete that procedure in an "expeditious manner." That was 10 years ago. At today's meeting, the Board is finally going to hear from a consultant how that reassessment procedure should be carried out.

I hope these examples have helped you new Board members to understand that the Regulating District desperately needs adult supervision. It's up to you to provide just that.

Thank you.