SARATOGA COUNTY A court settlement between five Upstate counties and the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District over its financing will mean a $3.7 million payment to Saratoga County.
Saratoga County’s Law and Finance Committee unanimously approved the settlement on Wednesday, Feb. 13, and the full Board of Supervisors will vote on it Feb. 26.
“It’s a good settlement,” said Ryan Moore, management analyst for the Saratoga County Administrator’s Office. “Everyone gets what they want.”
The agreement involves Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Warren and Washington counties, the five counties that the river district starting billing for its operating costs in 2010 after a federal court said it couldn’t bill downstream hydro-electric producers.
The district was formed more than 80 years ago to manage the flow of the Sacandaga River as a way of controlling flooding along he Hudson River. In Saratoga County, the Conklingville Dam on Sacandaga Lake is the primary beneficiary of the district.
According to Moore, for years the regulating district had paid for its operating costs by assessing downriver power plants. A federal court case in 2008 ruled that they could no longer do that. As a result, HRBRRD couldn’t pay its operating expenses, so they came up with a new method to stay in business.
“They looked at Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Warren and Washington counties and they defined those counties as benefiting from their activities because of flood control,” said Moore. “They came up with a method to assess the five counties for their operating fees.”
The counties sued over the legality of the bills, but state courts ruled against the counties. Last May, the Appellate Division upheld the legality of the bills, but said the state should also pay a share of the district’s expenses. The settlement is based on that ruling.
Moore said it was challenged in court because when the state created this district, the intention was never to have county property taxpayers pay the costs.