Don’t water down river rights

In Phil Brown’s good article on public-navigation rights, “A 20-Year Standstill,” in the May-June, 2010 issue, John Humbach’s concluding concerns about the bill that’s currently pending in the state legislature were right on the mark. If political compromises and the vagaries of the legislative process result in changes that diminish the public’s longstanding rights, it would be better to have no bill at all. That would suit the private vested interests of the Adirondack Landowners Association well while, unfortunately, doing a great disservice to the public.
The opposition to the bill by ALA has no rational basis. The bill would codify, in a single statute, the existing common-law public right of navigation as it is stated in scattered case law. The bill was carefully crafted to be fully consistent with existing law. It also addresses landowner rights and directs DEC to prepare regulations that would include a list of waterways that are navigable-in-fact. That’s it. Nothing up the sleeve. The bill is widely supported by New York State and national conservation and paddling organizations. DEC has supported the bill, as did the Commission on the Adirondacks in the 21st Century. To date, ALA has not met with bill advocates for a constructive discussion, despite several requests for such a meeting. Not long ago they submitted a poorly conceived markup to select legislators that made a mockery of its true purposes and, if advanced, would have largely gutted it. Let’s get serious. They know where to find us

Charles C. Morrison, Saratoga Springs, NY
Morrison is former natural resources director for the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

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