TO: Batchellerville Bridge Action Committee Members
FROM: Peter Van Avery
DATE: November 14, 2011

In September, I reported that the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District's board was considering what action to take against an access permit holder who allegedly dumped a significant amount of fill on state land without permission and then, when caught, refused instructions to restore the land to its former state.

The following update is a reminder that the District's rules, when ignored, can bring a harsh penalty down on an access permit holder. That penalty is spelled out in the District booklet titled "Rules and Regulations Governing Use by Permit Holders of State-Owned Property at Great Sacandaga Lake." See Section 606.95 ("Cause for revocation") and Section 606.96 ("Notice and hearing").

At its October meeting, the board voted 5-0 to revoke the access permit in question. The permit will not be reissued until the fill problem is remediated. If the permit holder makes no effort to correct the problem, the District will do so and send him the bill. Not until the District is reimbursed will it consider issuing an access permit for this area -- whether to the former holder or (ouch!) to a subsequent owner of the adjacent private property.

With the help of the Freedom of Information Law, I have obtained a copy of the letter (dated October 14, 2011) informing the access permit holder of the board's decision. Here's an excerpt:

"This action of the board resulted from your disregard for the conditions of a Work Permit issued by the HRBRRD for the placement of up to 10 cubic yards of topsoil on your access permit area, along with any necessary raking and seeding. The actual work done on your access permit area by your contractor on your behalf included the placement of many times the 10 cubic yards of soil permitted, as well as the placement of this material below mean high water of the reservoir. Neither of your actions would have been permissible by the HRBRRD. Additionally, despite repeated written directives by staff of the HRBRRD to remediate this encroachment on your access permit area (New York State land), no effort has been made to do so.

"Therefore, in keeping with the Board decision to revoke your access permit, effective immediately, you must remove any personal property from New York State land. HRBRRD staff will remove the permit sign from your former access permit area. If you wish to correct the unauthorized work done to your former permit area in an effort to regain your access permit, you must first make an application for a new access permit at the Sacandaga Field Office. This application will be held until HRBRRD staff inspect and approve the final remediation of the area in question.

"If no effort is made to correct the unauthorized work described above, HRBRRD will remove the encroachment. You will be informed of the time and materials cost incurred by the HRBRRD to do so. Upon reimbursement, the HRBRRD will again consider any application you may make for an access permit.

"These requirements are transferable by the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District, and therefore, will remain a prerequisite for any new application for an access permit for this area, whether such application is made by you or your successors in interest."

The letter is signed by John M. Hodgson, Sr., the District's Hudson River Area Administrator.

I must confess that I winced when I read this letter. Remediation can be an expensive proposition. But if you lose your access permit, the value of your lake property (already hurt by the nation's sick economy) will plummet sharply.

I wanted to put the District's letter on the record for several reasons.

First, if you obtain a work permit from the District, stick to what it says you can do. It's a given that the District's field personnel will check up on you. It's also a given that any penalty can be harsh.

Second, don't assume that because the District is operating with a skeleton crew, they'll never catch you if you fiddle with your access permit area without applying for a work permit. From time to time, the District receives a heads-up call from a neighbor who's observed some unusual activity on somebody else's permit area. Of course, the folks in your own neighborhood are wonderful people who'd never do such a thing. Or would they? I'll wager there's even an occasional tipster in those boats whizzing past your beach. (My apologies to readers suffering from paranoia. I've probably ruined your day.)

Finally, over the years, many of us have heard rumors that the District was applying its rules unevenly -- that certain individuals with influence or "pull" were getting special treatment. Publicizing this letter sets a standard against which future actions of the District can be compared. One rule should fit all.

I'll let you know how this case turns out.

As the year draws to a close, the District's board awaits the appointment of two new members by the Governor. One board seat has been vacant since the death of Paul Cornell in late January. (Incidentally, Environmental Conservation Law states: "The Governor shall fill any vacancy on such board within thirty days after it occurs for the remainder of the term of office.")

The second seat opened on September 1, when Philip Klein's term expired. Under the law, he can continued to attend and participate in board meetings until the Governor reappoints him or names a replacement. Since Mr. Klein is the last remaining Pataki appointee on the board, the former is probably unlikely.

The lake is at 763.5 feet above sea level -- nearly 6 feet above target.