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

A week ago today, two state legislators -- Senator Neil Breslin and Assembly Majority Leader Ron Canestrari -- introduced a bill that would dissolve the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District and shift its responsibilities to the New York Power Authority.

With the current legislative session nearing an end and its members scrambling to work out a long overdue state budget, the Daily Gazette reported yesterday that the bill has hit a snag in the Senate that could delay any action for months (if ever). And it's a big snag: Apparently, the Power Authority isn't all that interested in taking on this headache.

In addition, although I would support any well-thought-out plan to terminate the Regulating District, the bill's sponsors have failed to anticipate and answer some obvious questions of great importance to us.

For example, how would the transfer of responsibilities impact the quality of life and the property values of Great Sacandaga Lake's 4,800 access permit holders? Would we have any representation on the Power Authority's board (not that our representation on the Regulating District's board, with a few shining exceptions, has been all that satisfactory)? Would the Power Authority continue to pay taxes on the state land surrounding and beneath the lake?

Unless and until we learn the answers to these questions -- and we are satisfied with them -- we should oppose passage of this bill. You know what to do. Bombard the Governor and your elected officials with e-mails, telephone calls, and letters. Include Senator Breslin (e-mail: and Assemblyman Canestrari (to e-mail him, go online to

Although the Breslin/Canestrari bill needs a lot more work, it's good to know that the legislature is finally aware of the fact that the Regulating District is a major problem in quest of a solution.

Over the past decade, the Regulating District's incompetence and mismanagement have been repeatedly featured in the news. Its misadventures have been aided and abetted by a board that usually equates oversight with the wielding of a rubber stamp. Consider the following:

2000: In the Offer of Settlement, the District commits itself to identifying additional entities that could be assessed as beneficiaries of the Conklingville Dam. That was never done. In 2008, a Federal court cuts off 80 percent of the District's revenues by ruling that the organization can no longer assess downstream hydro plants for its operating expenses. This forces the District to delay payment of its local taxes and lay off 12 Hudson River Area employees. It is now scrambling to name new beneficiaries, triggering a barrage of lawsuits that it must defend against.

2003: The District sets out to determine the cost of the access permit system, which is supposed to pay for itself. Because the District is a piddlingly small organization, this promises to be a snap. But a roadblock immediately pops up: The staff had never been required to record hours spent on access permit projects. So the District hires a consultant to set up a methodology to collect the needed data. Surprisingly, the results have yet to be announced. Meanwhile, in 2008, National Grid sues the District, claiming that downstream beneficiaries are being illegally billed for some of the permit system's costs and arguing that it should be scrapped. Speculation: Is the District stonewalling on releasing the results of its analysis because the numbers show that the permit system is indeed not paying for itself, thereby supporting National Grid's case?

2005: The District sets out to revise the rules for access permit holders on Great Sacandaga Lake. It holds numerous public meetings to sample public opinion. In 2009, after the District drafts new rules that, at the behest of the Department of Environmental Conservation, would turn the access permit zone into a public park, open 24/7, the public uproar forces it to pull the plug on the rule-revision process. The controversy generates thousands of angry telephone calls and e-mails to the Governor and other elected officials. Thatís not the way to endear yourself to your boss.

One objection to the transfer of the Regulating District's responsibilities to another state authority is that we might not have representation on that organization's board. To that, I would remind you that even when we do have representation, things don't always work out the way we would like. For example, during last year's rule-revision fiasco, the head of the board's Permit System Committee was (and is) an access permit holder. So was another board member who tried to look out for us by refusing to toe the party line and who was not reappointed when his term expired.

The next meeting of the Regulating District's board will be held at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, July 13, 2010, at Johnstown Holiday Inn, 308 North Comrie Avenue, Johnstown, NY. There will be no regularly scheduled board meeting in August.

The lake is at 767.6 feet above sea level, almost exactly on target.