2013 Salem Road
Schenectady, NY 12309
May 26, 2009

Amelia Stern
Acting Director & Counsel
Governor's Office of Regulatory Reform
PO Box 2107
Albany, NY 12220-0107

Dear Ms. Stern:

I am writing in regard to the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District's proposed rules for the permit system at Great Sacandaga Lake. Earlier this month, the District submitted to you a heavily revised version reflecting comments from the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. This new version supplants the original version, submitted to GORR by the District in September 2007.

To quote GORR's publication, "Cost-Benefit Assessment in Rulemaking: A Guide for State Agencies": "The New York State Administrative Procedure Act requires that when an agency plans to adopt or amend a rule, whether it be a permanent or emergency rule, the agency must issue a Regulatory Impact Statement which includes an assessment of the costs and benefits of the proposed action."

DEC's changes to the proposed rules will have a devastating impact on property values and the quality of life of home owners and businesses around the lake, putting any cost-benefit analysis submitted by the District to GORR in 2007 completely out of date. Therefore, I respectfully request that GORR place the District's rule-revision process on hold until the required cost-benefit data are provided to your office.

Let me give you some background.

Great Sacandaga Lake is a river-regulating reservoir created in 1930. It is 29 miles long and has a 129-mile-long shoreline lined with homes. A state-owned buffer zone rings the lake, separating it from the surrounding private property.

For nearly all of the lake's 79-year history, the District has allowed adjacent property owners to purchase annual permits that provide them with access to the lake. For most of this time, the District sign posted on each access permit area proclaimed that the holder had "exclusive use" of that segment of state land. Today, the lake has 4,800 permit holders representing every walk of life, from mobile homes to mansions. They take pride in their dream homes on the lake, treating private land and state land with equal care.

The proposed rules that the District submitted to GORR in 2007 contained one titled "Access Permit Areas Limited to Access Permit Holders." So it came as a complete shock to Great Sacandaga's property owners earlier this month when the District announced that DEC had struck down that rule and also had added a prohibition against "obstructing or limiting pedestrian access on or across access permit areas." The effect would be to turn the state-owned buffer zone into a free public park open 24/7.

In addition, DEC added a new rule prohibiting the mowing of grass. This would allow the state-owned land to grow wild, ruining the view and preventing property owners from monitoring their beach assets (stairways, boats, and docks). Also, since a property owner could not control access to his permit area, it is likely that liability insurance on those beach assets would be expensive or impossible to obtain.

Since this public land will be open 24/7, one can imagine that property owners will have to put up with all-night beer parties, complete with boomboxes running at full volume. Further, the state land would not be policed, giving criminals and sexual perverts free reign (please note that many of the lake's homes are within a few feet of state land). There's also an issue with sanitation; DEC's rules forbid the use of portable toilets on this state land.

As a final insult to the quality of life, the proposed rules state that the permit holder is responsible for keeping the area clean and safe. So the private citizen is expected to act as the state's janitor, cleaning up paper plates, beer and soft-drink cans, broken glass, used diapers, and other items I prefer not to describe in detail.

All this would have a severe impact on property values and local tax receipts. Says Edinburg Town Supervisor Jean Raymond in her monthly column in the June 2009 issue of the Edinburg Newsletter: "These proposed rules break a 76-year arrangement between the lake public and the state. People have invested in homes and businesses with the permit system a consideration. These rules are going to have a dramatic effect on both the character and environment of the lake. They will be devastating to home values, businesses and the public in general."

I also urge you to require the District to update its environmental impact statement. Today, the state land around the lake is supervised and painstakingly cared for by access permit holders. Opening the area to the public -- unsupervised -- will be an environmental disaster. An example of what would happen is the lake's Sand Island, a popular public draw. In addition to strewn garbage, you need to be extremely careful where you walk because of the lack of rest rooms facilities (banned by DEC).

By way of background material, I am enclosing the May 19, 2009 issue of the BBAC Newsletter, plus selected press clippings.

The cost of these proposed rules to the economy and the environment far outweighs their benefits. In closing, I urge you to halt the rule-revision process until the Regulating District has provided the required cost-benefit analysis. Our hope is that this exercise will show the District's management that they need to withdraw the proposed rules and take them back to the drawing board.

Sincerely,

Peter VanAvery
BATCHELLERVILLE BRIDGE ACTION COMMITTEE

Seasonal address:

35 Lakeside Avenue
Edinburg, NY 12134

cc: D. Paterson, Governor