Spring 2020  Quarterly Newsletter

Message from Executive Director John Callaghan 

F irst and foremost, all of us at the Regulating District hope all of you and your families are keeping well during these extraordinary times.

Pandemic Prompts New Perspective
I didn't expect to be reflecting back on my first year at the Regulating District during a global pandemic, but like everyone, I find my perspective inevitably altered as a result. The overwhelming sense I have as I write this is one of gratitude for the exceptionally skilled and dedicated workforce at the Regulating District who have continued to support our vitally important core mission functions throughout the recent months. As you might imagine, many of these individuals have been working from home, and some have continued to report - but none have failed to answer the call when essential administrative, operational, or health & safety tasks required doing so.  

Of course I would be remiss if I did not extend not only this sense of appreciation but awe at the people on the front lines of the COVID-19 battle, notably our health professionals. The thought of scores of doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals flocking to the pandemic's epicenter in the New York metropolitan region conjures up images of firefighters walking up the staircases at the World Trade Center as others were walking down. To all those who have selflessly leaned into this fight on behalf of our great State and Nation, we express heartfelt thanks and admiration.

Many Firsts Punctuate Year
For our part, we have remained committed to and cognizant of our mission, and to ensuring that we could deliver it without interruption or diminishment in readiness. Despite the necessary changes to our workforce reporting and status of operations over the last two months, I am happy to report that the last 12 months have been extremely productive, punctuated by two major milestones, advances in our external communication capabilities, a significant high water event, a new Board member, the departure and arrival of colleagues old and new, significant strides in our customer service efforts, and of course the unprecedented global pandemic which has put the collective ingenuity, aplomb, professionalism and spirit of Regulating District employees on full display.

Just this past fall, an extreme rain event produced more flow in the Sacandaga River at its peak than was observed during the 1913 flood that devastated the City of Albany and other downstream municipalities, ultimately leading toward the construction of what would become known as the Great Sacandaga Lake.  Thanks to the Conklingville Dam - which was completed 90 years ago this year and which formed the reservoir - much of that flow was stored.  The result: although catastrophic flooding impacted communities throughout the Adirondacks, no major flooding was experienced in the Hudson River Area downstream in communities afforded flood protection from Regulating District operations, demonstrating that the benefit to these communities is not just historical, theoretical or academic.

And just last summer, the Black River Regulating District, to which our institution traces its founding, celebrated its 100 th anniversary. I think the parallel milestones of the Conklingville Dam turning 90 and the Black River Regulating District turning 100 in the same 12-month period helps underscore the longevity of our story and the durability and timelessness of our mission.

Other "firsts" during the last 12 months included processing access permit renewals by credit card for the first time, open house events for the public at our Black River Field Office on Stillwater Reservoir and our Sacandaga Field Office on Great Sacandaga Lake, development and publication of an informative "Q & A" for operation of Great Sacandaga Lake, installation of a dedicated emergency generator at the Conklingville Dam, and expansion of our social media presence on Facebook and Instagram.

Inspired by Lake Partners and Supporters
We are also immensely proud and humbled to have played a small role in the important initiatives spearheaded by the Safe Lake Initiative, under the inspiring leadership of the Craig Family Foundation and the Henry D. Ross III Memorial Fund. We look forward to working closely with our Safe Lake Initiative partners on existing and new initiatives to make sure that everyone does the most important part of any fun day on the water: go home at the end of it to the ones they love.

We've also listened and learned, and by we, I mean mostly me. One of the most rewarding aspects of this position so far has been to meet and speak with so many individuals and so many organizations who have as a personal passion or mission the protection or enhancement of the various water resources under our jurisdiction. I have far less history and institutional knowledge than many of my colleagues, allowing me to embrace the opportunity to work with stakeholder organizations to advance the goals we share, building on the great work the Regulating District had already done in this area in the past. To the people and groups who have generously lent me their time and insight, let me say thank you.  

Continuing Our Mission
Looking ahead, there is much important work to do. We are working on advancing important capital rehabilitation projects at our Conklingville, Indian Lake, and Hawkinsville dams, as well as other structures. And we look forward to continuing to improve customer service, offering online access permit transactions for the first time in history. At its regular monthly meeting on May 12, the Board approved an agreement with our website and permit database consultant to build this capability, which we expect to be available for the 2021 season. Above all, we plan to apply the highest standards and levels of ingenuity and efficiency to deliver on our primary mission of flood protection and flow augmentation for New Yorkers.

Poised to Successfully Navigate Ahead
In my formative years transiting the Hudson River frequently aboard Coast Guard Cutters Sorrel and Wire, and later on various tugboats, I was particularly enamored of a spot near West Point known to mariners as "World's End." The etymology of the phrase is the matter of some debate but approaching from the south there was little doubt that early travelers meant it literally. Formed by looking from West Point on the left to Constitution Island's high ground and the Hudson's eastern shore - it seemed as if a high, rocky wall of vegetation completely spanned the river, and if you kept going you'd simply run into it like something out of  The Truman Show . As much of an optical illusion it was during the day, the radar image at night was even more perplexing. I can imagine the dread of native peoples approaching from the south imaging that what they were seeing was, literally, the world's end. But after successfully navigating that bend the river would open up again, 100 more miles of tidal navigation and beyond that - as we know - another 150 miles up into its source in the Adirondacks. What a feeling of relief and joy it must have been for mariners over the centuries - including Hudson himself - to navigate that treacherous and ominous stretch, filled with anxiety and dread, wondering what if anything lay beyond, only to make that last turn to starboard and see the emerging beauty and open water ahead.
I can't help but think that we are in a similar place today, poised to successfully navigate "World's End" and continue steaming ahead to better days.

Customer Service Remains Priority During COVID Crisis

Like most of you, our staff has been challenged to continue our important day-to-day work while adhering to new health and safety directives. This means many of us are working from home or different locations, employing new levels of flexibility and creativity to meet our professional and personal challenges. Since March and to date, our Albany, Watertown and Mayfield offices are not open to walk-in visitation, but we are still here to help. Members of the public are encouraged to contact us through Facebook messenger and email.

Please reach us:
In Albany: HRAO@hrbrrd.ny.gov
In Mayfield: SACFO@hrbrrd.ny.gov
In Watertown: BRAO@hrbrrd.ny.gov

Please note, minutes and vide o recordings of our Board and Committee meetings are available on our website.

Thank you for your patience and cooperation during this challenging time.

Staff Uses Ingenuity On & Off the Clock

As Plant Operator at the Conklingville Dam, we already knew that Matt Ginter is resourceful and proactive in his duties. Now he's taken those qualities to another level, trying to ease one COVID-19 related burden for medical staff. When Matt's step-daughter, a local nurse, described how PPE masks worn all day can rub raw the backs of ears, Matt decided to help provide a  solution. At his own cost, Matt is making "ear savers", a plastic piece made with a s pecial laser cutter, t hat connects the ear bands in the back, eliminati ng the
pressure and irritation on ears. He's delivered his ear savers to St. Mary's Nursing Home in Amsterdam, Edinburgh Town Hall, as well as day care centers and other health care professionals. Matt credits 
Allen & Palmer True Value  in Northville for donating some materials to help keep up with requests. Matt says
sometimes the sm
allest item or gesture can make the  difference. Just ano the r reason we are proud of the work done by our Regulating District staff, on and off the clock. Thank you Matt! 

Online Permit Transactions Coming for 
GSL Permit Holders
Website Improvements will Allow Transactions, Including Annual Renewals, to be Conducted Online
At its regular meeting on May 12, the Board of the Hudson River - Black River Regulating District approved a contract with Interactive Media Consulting, LLC to develop online permit transaction capability for HRBRRD's website.

In 2020, HRBRRD began accepting credit cards for access permit transactions for the first time in person at its Sacandaga Field Office. The new online permitting effort will build on this capability by allowing permittees to conduct basic permit transactions such as renewals, work permit applications, and name change requests via the HRBRRD website.

"This is the next important step in our effort to improve customer service and achieve new efficiencies in our operations," Mark Finkle, Chair of the HRBRRD said. "We recognize that many people are not even in the area when renewals are being processed, and even completing a renewal by mail can have its challenges if mail is not forwarded correctly. So this is just a common-sense application of existing technology to make it easier for permit holders around Great Sacandaga Lake to do business with us."

While work on building the online platform is expected to start immediately, HRBRRD expects to reach out to permittees and other stakeholder groups for input into the process, and to assist with testing. It is expected that the new process will be up and running prior to the 2021 renewal period.

HRBRRD laid the groundwork for this effort over the last few years by developing the online permit database that will support the online transaction capability. This iterative process moved forward again in 2020 with the introduction of in-person credit card transactions, and will culminate next year with the website's online transaction function.

"This is something we've been working toward, and that we've heard loud and clear than permittees on GSL really wanted. This will speed verification that permit transactions have been successfully processed, and allow for better transparency for our permittees," HRBRRD Executive Director John Callaghan said. "Permittees will still be able to renew in person or by mail, but we expect many people to take advantage of this new capability as well."

Existing permittees can expect to receive instructions on how to utilize the new system in the mail in January, 2021 at which time the information will be available on HRBRRD's website and social media channels as well.  
Spring Update
from HRBRRD Chief Engineer Robert S. Foltan, P.E.

Both the Hudson River and Black River watershed saw the 2020 spring freshet carry runoff from a snow pack which was 100% of historic average in the Black River area and about 90% of average in the Hudson River area into the reservoirs beginning around March 10.  The refilling of the Great Sacandaga Lake and Stillwater Reservoir progressed steadily through the end of March and first half of April, thanks mostly to near average precipitation in the month of March.  Inflow to the Great Sacandaga Lake totaled 13.55 billion cubic feet, or 145% of average, in March.  Stillwater Reservoir saw comparable inflow at 137% of historic average in March. 
The trend of wetter hydrologic conditions continued in the Hudson River area in April with precipitation totaling about 13% above normal.  In contrast to the Regulating District's eastern watersheds, the western Adirondacks, including the Black River area, saw only 64% of normal precipitation in April.  Inflow to the Great Sacandaga Lake totaled 11.07 billion cubic feet, or 63% of average, in April while Stillwater Reservoir received 55% of historic average inflow in April. 
On May 5 Great Sacandaga Lake reached an elevation of 767.15 ft ('88 NAVD), or about 2.6 feet above the Offer of Settlement target elevation.  At time of publication, the elevation was approximately 6 inches above target elevation.  
As of May 8, Stillwater Reservoir's elevation was about 4 feet below the historic average elevation at 1673.39 feet ('88 NAVD) and, although doing so slowly, continues to rise.

Spring Clean-Up & Boating Season Prep Continues

With more debris from winter than expected and more staffing and distancing challenges than anticipated,  critical tasks like debris clean up take a little more planning and require extra precautions these days - but the job still needs to get done and our folks are up to the challenge. From installing a log boom at Conklingville and various tree limb and debris clean up to assisting NYS DEC staff in setting navigational buoys, our team has been out and about whenever safe and possible.

May is Water Safety Month

Despite the many pandemic-related delays and closures and the surprise May snow, we are anticipating a busier and more active boating season than ever. We are proud and honored to work year-round with Safe Lake partners, like the Sean C. Craig Memorial Fund, the Henry D. Ross III Memorial Fund, the Great Sacandaga Lake Association, the Fulton County, Montgomery County and Saratoga County Sheriff's Offices, the NYS Police, NYS DEC, the Watercraft Network and many others who work tirelessly to improve the safety of the lake.  
I t is especially important to highlight water safety at this time of year when we see an exponential increase in boat traffic and will likely see an greater volume on our waters since boating is one of the original and naturally-socially distant activities.

Recent Water Safety Event in Mayfield with Safe Lake Partners
HRBRRD Executive Director John Callaghan, Hudson River Area Administrator John Hodgson and Fulton County Sheriff Richard Giardino sport masks and life vests for safety.


See additional news coverage of  this event :

In honor o f May's designation as Water Safety Month,  plea se follow all safety protocols.
  • Maintain social distancing and mask wearing directives
  • Wear a Life Jacket that is U. S. Coast Guard approved and fits appropriately
  • Know state boating laws
  • Make sure your boat is safety prepared & know your boat's capacity
  • Check the weather, water temperature and dress properly
  • Always follow navigation rules
  • Don't drink while you boat
  • Keep in touch-be sure to have at least 2 communication devices that work on board.
For more boating safety resources, please see the  National Safe Boating Council website.

Life Jackets are for Everyone!
HRBRRD Staff Supports Local Safe Boating Campaign

GSL Safe Lake Initiative launched a Wear Your Life Jacket photo contest this week to highlight the importance of not only having, but wearing personal flotation devices. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, drowning was the reported cause of death in 4 out of 5 recreational boating fatalities in 2018, and approximately 84 percent of those were not wearing life jackets. The National Safe Boating Council designated May 15 th Wear Your Life Jacket to Work Day" and HRBRRD staff  recently  sported their  PFDs at a recent staff meeting. Visit the GSL Safe Lake Initiative Facebook page to see the creative photo contest submissions from those who are wearing their life jackets at work, at home and out and about, and learn more about the important work of this organization.

GSL Work Permit Reminder!
Planning to get some projects done before summer season? Please remember an approved Regulating District Work Permit is required prior to performing any work on your Great Sacandaga Lake Access permit area. This includes moving rocks, installing docks or moorings, or cutting trees. Find a copy of an Work Permit application and other related information on our website. Walk in visits are not permitted due to social distancing guidelines. Permit applications can be mailed or emailed to our Mayfield Office: sacfo@hrbrrd.ny.gov , HRBRRD, 737 Bunker Hill Rd, Mayfield, NY 12117. See our  website  for more information on the GSL Access Permit System.
Thank you to all our staff members, board members and permit holders for your role in the success of the Regulating District.
Hudson River Black River Regulating District
 | (518) 465-3491 | hrao@hrbrrd.ny.gov  | www.hrbrrd.com
 View on Instagram      Like us on Facebook       View our videos on YouTube