TO: Batchellerville Bridge Action Committee Members
FROM: Peter Van Avery
DATE: August 31, 2011

ALERT! No thanks to Hurricane Irene, Great Sacandaga Lake is rising like gangbusters. It is currently at 766 feet above sea level, up 3.5 feet since Sunday morning, August 28, when the dam stopped releasing water. Mike Clark, the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District's Executive Director, tells me that the lake is expected to crest at about 767 feet, at which time the dam will begin to release water again.

Today's lake level is roughly where you'd find it in late July. What this means is that you'd better keep a close eye on your beach assets to make certain that they don't drift away. If your boat has a canvas cover that's not quite as water resistant as it used to be, you might want to consider taking a trip up to the lake to pump out the bilge. When my son and I went up Monday night, we found a considerable amount of water in our boat.

The high water also means that property owners with steep frontage -- who usually don't have much of a beach this time of year even when rainfall is average -- may be sidelined during this weekend's annual season-ending "Ring of Fire" celebration. No beach ... no bonfire. Blame it on Mother Nature!

After a long and frustrating wait, Fulton County has finally collected two years of back taxes (more than $3 million worth) from the Regulating District. After retaining the $1.4 million owed it, the county will distribute the remaining $1.8 million to the Broadalbin-Perth ($475,000), Northville ($600,000), and Mayfield ($740,000) school districts.

This windfall came only after Fulton County successfully sued the District. State Supreme Court Justice Richard T. Aulisi ruled in the County's favor and gave the District 30 days (later extended to 45 days) to pay up.

The District's $3 million tax payment wiped out its Black River Area reserves. Since the Hudson River Area's reserves are long gone, the state authority is now essentially broke. The Hudson River Area lost more than 80 percent of its funding in 2008 when the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that downstream federally-licensed hydro plant operators could no longer be billed for the reservoir's operating expenses.

Until Judge Aulisi's ruling, the District had hoped to figure out a way for the Hudson River Area to borrow the money from the Black River Area (a process forbidden by law) and use it as collateral for a loan. However, the court order was lodged against the entire District, not just one or the other reserve fund. That forced the liquidation of the Black River Area reserves. When (if?) the Hudson River Area finds a new source of funding, the money will be repaid to the Black River Area.

Saratoga and Hamilton Counties, also owed back taxes by the District, did not participate in the lawsuit and still await payment. Next question: Now that both reserve funds are depleted, how will the District pay its 2011-12 taxes?

Many of you are seething over the results of State Inspector General Ellen Biben's investigation into allegations of misconduct by former Executive Director Glenn LaFave and the District's Board of Directors. Your concern is that these charges will be swept under the rug and forgotten. I recommend that you express your fears to Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, who was sent a copy of the Inspector General's report. Here's how to reach him:

The next meeting of the Regulating District's board will be held at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, September 13, 2011, at Lowville Town Offices, 5533 Bostwick Street, Lowville, NY.