Bill just passed could affect property owners on lake

A bill just passed by the State Legislature requires the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District, the state authority that governs Great Sacandaga Lake, to seek out new “beneficiaries” who can be billed for this flood-control reservoir’s operation. It’s obviously aimed at the wallets of the lake’s access permit holders and of property owners in surrounding communities.

But how can you be considered a “beneficiary” of a flood-control reservoir if you live ABOVE its dam? People who reside on or anywhere near the lake are urged to turn out for a protest rally, sponsored by the Sacandaga Protection Committee, scheduled for 9 a.m. on Tuesday, outside the Bradt Building in Northville. The Regulating District’s board will be holding its July meeting inside, beginning at 10 a.m.

Great Sacandaga Lake (initially known as the Sacandaga Reservoir) was created in 1930 to control the flow of the upper Hudson River, preventing floods that ravaged downstream communities like Albany and Troy. Over the years, its existence has allowed billions of dollars worth of property to be constructed on the upper Hudson’s 100-year floodplain.

In response, downstream “beneficiaries” have funded the operation of the Regulating District. Currently, they include five counties (Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Warren, and Washington), the state (which owns property on the floodplain), and hydropower companies.

The total value of non-state property on the 100-year floodplain in the five counties is $3.2 BILLION. For their share of flood protection, these counties pay the Regulating District a total annual assessment of just $3 MILLION. That’s already a pretty good deal.

Consider also that the majority of the lake (the southern section) falls within Fulton County, one of the state’s poorest counties. The rest of the lake (the northern section) is in Saratoga County, which already pays an assessment as a “downstream beneficiary.” Are property owners in this section going to be double billed?

The governor is likely to sign the bill (not a single legislator voted against it — although some avoided going on record by being “excused”).

And since the District’s board and executive director are appointed by the governor, you can guess how this could turn out.

Peter Van Avery