TO: Batchellerville Bridge Action Committee Members
FROM: Peter Van Avery
DATE: November 30, 2010

In mid-December, Harrison & Burrowes Bridge Constructors, the firm building the new Batchellerville Bridge, will suspend work for the winter.

Since the groundbreaking ceremony on August 3, the firm has nearly completed the west abutment (the end foundation upon which the bridge superstructure will rest). It also has begun work on seven of the new bridge's 12 piers. The latter include piers 1-6 extending out from the west shore, plus pier 12, the first pier out from the east shore. Also at the east shore, the contractor has built a causeway that will give heavy equipment future access to that side of the site.

Initially, the contractor focused on piers 1-3, expecting that at least pier 1 would be complete by winter shutdown. That may still happen, but time is running short. What slowed progress was the heavy rainfall we've experienced this fall. The runoff sent the reservoir surging far above target levels. For many days, the cofferdams under construction at those first three piers were submerged and inaccessible. (A cofferdam is a watertight enclosure from which water is pumped to expose the bottom of the lake and allow construction of a pier.)

On October 10, for example, the reservoir was at 766.08 feet above sea level, some 6.7 feet above target. The level has now subsided below the tops of those three cofferdams, and work is continuing on them. Today's level is 759.5, still more than 4 feet above target.

The contract for the new $46.6 million bridge requires that it be open to traffic by November 8, 2013. However, the contractor has set itself an aggressive schedule aimed at having the new bridge open to traffic by November of 2012. This schedule is subject to change based on weather conditions and any unanticipated issues that may arise as work proceeds. The 2014 construction season will see demolition of the existing bridge, removal of temporary access roads, final grading/seeding/landscaping, and other finish work.

The Town of Edinburg web site offers a terrific slide show showing construction of the new Batchellerville Bridge. The photos were taken by Bob Monacchio, an Edinburg resident. Check them out at

The Batchellerville Bridge construction site presents a number of new obstacles for snowmobilers to avoid. You folks need to be extra careful out there, especially at night or under conditions of poor visibility. If you haven't seen the site, you might want to hop in your car and scope it out before winter hits. Park on the west side and walk out on the old bridge. While you're out there, shoot some photos for the family album.

In September, a federal court judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by National Grid that challenged the Regulating District on a variety of issues, including the legality of the access permit system. In response, the firm intends to file an appeal with the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

Earlier this year, long before the November election, Governor-Elect Andrew Cuomo released a policy book titled "The New NY Agenda: A Plan for Action." In it, he set forth a plan for reducing the number of state agencies, authorities, commissions, and the like by 20 percent in the interest of saving taxpayers' money, increasing accountability, and improving the delivery of governmental services. Will this impact the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District, the state authority that controls Great Sacandaga Lake?

Although Mr. Cuomo's goals are admirable, carrying out his agenda will not be easy. Times Union Columnist Fred LeBrun offered this explanation: "Because there is a little state constitutional issue in the way, namely that the authority to reorganize state government belongs to the Legislature, subject only to the governor's veto."

The actions of the Regulating District's board can have a tremendous impact on our quality of life and the value of our property at Great Sacandaga Lake. Since the beginning of the year, the composition of the seven-member board has changed dramatically. In January, appointees of Former Governor Pataki still held a majority on the board. Today, appointees of Governor Paterson hold a 5-1 majority (one seat is vacant).

What is surprising is that the board, as presently constituted, is an old-boy club ... no women are members. I've attended board meetings since 2003, and this is the first time I've seen women totally excluded. At the beginning of 2010, two women were on the board. Another first in my experience is that no member is an access permit holder (vs. one in January). That makes me feel very uneasy. Who is sticking up for our interests and helping to solve our problems?

The Hudson River Area and the Black River Area are each represented by three members of the board, with one seat "At Large". The Hudson River Area members are Paul J. Cornell, Albert J. Hayes, and Philip W. Klein (the sole remaining Pataki appointee). The Black River Area members are Michael F. Astafan and Thomas Stover, with one seat vacant. The "At Large" member is David W. Berkstresser.

I have nothing new to report on the "exclusive use" crisis other than to say again that this is an intolerable situation, with the Regulating District and the state Department of Environmental Conservation, both reporting to the Governor, squabbling about the status of the state-owned buffer zone around the lake. Is the buffer zone reserved for the "exclusive use" of access permit holders (the District's position)? Or is it a public park (DEC's position)? If DEC wins, property values around the lake could plummet by a cumulative total of tens of millions of dollars.

With David Paterson packing up to move out of the Governor's Office at year-end and Andrew Cuomo preparing to move in, our complaints will go unheeded at this point. But that shouldn't stop us from preparing to go on the offensive in the new year. In the December issue of this newsletter, I'll summarize the situation and provide talking points for your contacts with the Governor's Office and other elected and appointed officials.

The next meeting of the Regulating District's board will be held at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, December 14, 2010 at the Watertown City Hall, 245 Washington Street, Watertown, NY 13601.