Property Rights Foundation of America®

Speech to the Ninth Annual Conference on Private Property Rights
(PRFA, Albany, N.Y. October 22, 2005)

Organizing Successfully Against the Sacandaga Reservoir Regulating District

Guy Poulin

One day, while sitting in the parking lot where I picked up my newspaper, I just happened to be reading the paper. I read where the Hudson River Black River Regulating District was going to hold a meeting on the 2nd of October, stating that a new access permit fee schedule for the Sacandaga would be approved, and that a copy of it could be found at Northville Field Office.

So what I did is I went to the Northville Field Office and, sure enough, there was this piece of paper there sealed in plastic that showed the new permit fees. And, being a little naïve, I looked, let me see, I've got 210 feet. I am going to go to $1,000 a year for the use of the shoreline around the Great Sacandaga in front of my house, from $92 a year. You also have to realize that the Great Sacandaga Lake is one of the only lakes in the United States that I am aware of where you actually pay to be situated next to its shores.

Needless to say, going around Thursday night telling people that your fee was going to increase from $72 a year to $700 a year did not go over very well. I was called a liar. Oh, incidentally, I requested a copy of the schedule. They said I had to FOIL it. State of New York. Okay? So that night I talked to my sister-in-law. My brother-in-law kicked me out of his house. He said I was a liar. The State cannot do that. So the next night I talked to my sister-in-law. Guy, that can't be true, she said. They can't raise it like that. So what I did was just continue trying to talk to people, and that did not work. I tend to be somewhat of a practical joker at times, which made things a little bit worse.

But the next morning my sister-in-law goes to work. She is secretary to the clerk of the board in Fulton, County, New York, and she tells the clerk that the permit fees are jumping by as much as 1,300 percent. He calls up the River Regulating District and confirms this. Well, I need a copy of that faxed to me because this is going to have a detrimental effect upon the taxes that these people pay around the lake, also, he says. No, you are going to have to FOIL it. He immediately put in a phone call to the governor's office and even that didn't work. But, in the meantime, the director called and said that you can find it on the Internet. My sister-in-law calls me immediately and says, you can find it on the Internet under hrbrrd. So I looked it up and ran off their bylaws. In the meantime, I made 200 copies of the schedule and started passing it around to the people, and the people were alarmed.

At the October meeting, they closed the door when the capacity was 26 people and there were 80 of us there. A public hearing was scheduled at Northville Central School, which has an auditorium that will hold 650 people. They closed the door 20 minutes before the meeting was scheduled to open, with 800 people ready to lynch them. You must also remember that the Hudson River Black River Regulating District is one of those public benefit authorities. Everybody is appointed by the governor. Everybody serves at his discretion, and I am certain you have heard about what happened with NYRA (1), what has happened with SPAC (2), and, of course, what has happened with the Canal Authority (3).

So we presented our case. I had done a lot of research. In the bylaws, it states that the Hudson River Regulating District was actually set up by the New York State Legislature in 1915. We just celebrated our seventy-fifth anniversary on the lake, of closing the dam at Conklingville. Financing the river district is based on those benefiting most from river regulation. The owners of some 37 down-stream properties in Saratoga, Warren, Washington, Rensselaer, and Albany counties, at which the power of moving water can be directly utilized, agreed to share 95.34 percent of the cost of acquiring Sacandaga Valley land and building the necessary facilities. The remainder was shared among the cities of Albany, Watervliet, Troy, and Rensselaer, and the village of Green Island, in recognition of the flood protection that they would realize. No state or federal tax dollars were used to build the reservoir. Approximately $4.9 million was paid to acquire all of this land, build the bridges, build the dam. (Today the cost of the new Batchellerville Bridge that is going to have to go in is scheduled to be $34 million—to put a bridge in.) Moreover, the same property owners and municipalities obligated themselves to share in perpetuity all the operating and maintenance costs of the Regulating Districts not recovered by other district revenues.

There is also a segment in there that none of the revenue derived from the permit system is used to operate the Hudson River Black River Regulating District. Permit fees are used only to help offset the costs of running the permit system itself. Well, the permit fees at that point in time are already paying the cost to run the permit system, and more. I also got hold of their audit that showed that permit fees were budgeted at $400,000, and they collected $436,000, which means they made a profit of $36,000. They had scheduled that the permit system was going to cost $2.9 million. And they were charging things off to us that were against their own budget.

This is still going on. We did get the permit fees brought back, but it is still going on. Very, very shortly thereafter the APA (4) steps in and says that we are going to limit dock size to a 160 square feet. Try to put a 30-foot boat on a 40 by 4-foot dock and try to protect it in the wind. Now we are fighting historical preservation. They are trying to get us to before we can move a rock on the land between us and the water, we have to have a historical preservation team come in at our cost to move that rock.

To finish, a little story. The Archangel Michael had been looking around Heaven for six days to find God, and on the seventh day he found God relaxing in a cloud. He said, what have you been doing for the last six days? God pointed down and pointed to Earth, and said, "I created Earth." And, Michael inquired "Well, what is the big deal there?" God said, "Well, it is a place of wide diversity and extremes." "Oh," said Michael.

Michael pointed to this dark spot, and he asked, "What's that?" "That's New York City, a city of extreme wealth and extreme poverty," answered God. "Oh. How come the Earth is white at the top and the bottom and green in the middle?" asked Michael. "Well, here is the diversity again, said God. We have very hot areas and very cold areas." Well, what is this beautiful green spot right here?" Michael asked. God said, "That's the Adirondacks, and it is a place of extremely intelligent people. They will not make a great deal of money, but they will be world leaders and they will have very diverse ideas." Michael asked "But, God, where is the diversity?" God replied, "You should see the idiots I put in Albany."

Notes:

(1) NYRA - New York Racing Authority
(2) SPAC - Saratoga Performing Arts Council
(3) Canal Authority - New York State Canal Authority
(4) APA - Adirondack Park Agency

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