SPC December 2010 Update

As winter approaches we would like to take an opportunity to provide you with an update from the Sacandaga Protection Committee.  Through the generous support of the lake community we have raised over $250,000 since our organization was formed in 2009.  We are a volunteer group and 100% of this money is used to protect the rights of the permit holders and lake community.  Here are a few of the issues we are working on:

 

Exclusive Use.  As you may know, the SPC was successful this past May in convincing the Hudson River Black River Regulating District (HRBRRD) to reinstate the “Exclusive Use” terminology on the permit signs and yearly permit renewals.  The issue of exclusive use of the permit area remains our highest priority.  We understand that this is extremely important to all permit holders and without exclusive use, property values around the lake would fall dramatically.  A recent dispute between neighbors in the Broadalbin area has brought into question the enforcement of exclusive use on HRBRRD lands (i.e., permit area).  Our attorneys and lobbyists are actively working toward a permanent solution to this issue with clearly defined policies and enforcement responsibilities.

 

Dismissal of the Niagara Mohawk Lawsuit Challenging the Permit System.  Niagara Mohawk has filed several lawsuits against the HRBRRD in an attempt to avoid paying annual fees.  In one of those lawsuits, Niagara Mohawk challenged the legality of the HRBRRD Permit System.  After reviewing this lawsuit with our attorneys last summer, the SPC determined that this lawsuit posed a viable threat to the current Permit System and made the decision to “intervene” in the lawsuit.  After reviewing our legal arguments, the federal judge in the case granted the SPC intervener status earlier this year.  As an Intervener, the SPC filed legal arguments opposing the lawsuit and potential abolishment of the Permit System.  On September 30, 2010, the federal judge issued a Summary Judgment against Niagara Mohawk effectively dismissing the case.  In his dismissal of the case, the judge specifically noted the important legal contributions of the SPC as interveners representing the interests of both front lot and back lot property owners as well as business and recreational users of the Great Sacandaga Lake.  As we went to press with this mailing, Niagara Mohawk had filed for an appeal with the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.  We will continue to defend the permit system through the appeal process.

 

HRBRRD Funding Issues.

As you are likely aware, the HRBRRD is in the midst of a funding crisis, the result of downstream power producers who have refused to pay annual charges by the HRBRRD.  Although the power producers funded more than 90% of the original dam construction and have historically paid operation and maintenance charges by the HRBRRD, a recent change in regulations has allowed the power producers to avoid these charges.  We are working with Congressmen Paul Tonko, Bill Owens and Scott Murphy on an amendment to the Federal Power Act that would mandate the power producers to once again pay these charges.  We are optimistic that the efforts of the SPC and our attorneys and lobbyists will restore funding to the HRBRRD without placing the total burden on downstream municipalities, permit holders or the local school districts or local municipalities.

 

Where do we go from here?  We have spent considerable time debating various options for developing a long-term solution to the recent turmoil that has plagued us as permit holders.  We are actively pursuing several solutions which range from some form of land purchase to working within the framework of the existing permit system. 

 

The concept of purchasing the land that makes up the “buffer strip” is quite complicated.  As more fully described in the Frequently Asked Questions on our website www.lovethesacandaga.com there are several major obstacles that we feel make an all out land purchase unattainable at this time.  While we are not ruling this option out, our first priority is to protect the existing exclusive use permit system while we continue to research potential land purchase type alternatives. 

 

We have also researched alternatives, such as a potential Sacandaga Lake Recreation District, for managing the “buffer strip” in conjunction with the HRBRRD.  However, after researching this concept we’ve concluded that a privately managed Recreation District may not provide a better alternative than a well run HRBRRD.  Each alternative has its pros and cons and we are evaluating all options.

 

The HRBRRD has operated the permit system since its inception 80 years ago and, with the exception of the recent turmoil, has done a reasonable job.  In the last few months Governor Paterson has replaced a number of the HRBRRD Board members.   With the recent Board turnover and the retirement of Executive Director Glen LaFave, we are increasingly optimistic about the possibility of developing a real working relationship with the HRBRRD Board. 

 

The recent confusion over enforcement of the HRBRRD’s exclusive use policy demonstrates the need for the SPC, an established group that is prepared to act in the best interest of the lake community. The SPC is run by volunteers from around the lake with no paid staff.  Contributions are used to fund our attorneys and lobbyists as we navigate through the issues plaguing the Great Sacandaga Lake.

 

We encourage you to contact us with any questions, comments, or concerns via our website 

 

Sincerely,

Joe Sullivan, Co-chair, SPC                                                              Dick Smith, Co-chair, SPC