Supervisors from Washington and Warren counties are expected to approve Friday a settlement with the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District, a move that could end a four-year standoff with the keeper of the Hudson River’s dam network.
The Regulating District in 2009 levied about $4.5 million in “benefit fees” on Washington County, Warren County, Saratoga County, Rensselaer County and Albany County after a federal court decision stripped the district of its right to charge private hydroelectric dams, its traditional funding source.
The five counties all withheld payment and filed lawsuits.
But a tentative deal that would end the standoff has been reached, one that the Albany County Legislature ratified on Monday, local county attorneys said.
“Let’s just say I’m comfortable recommending it,” said Warren County Attorney Martin Auffredou on Tuesday.
Auffredou declined to discuss details of the settlement, because Warren County supervisors haven’t been fully briefed on the proposal.
Warren County would have owed more than $300,000 a year, including more than $1 million in back payments, under the Regulating District’s original user tax.
Washington County would have owed more than $700,000 in back payments and $175,000 annually, while Saratoga County was more than $1.3 million in arrears, according to Regulating District calculations.
The total number the counties will owe this year, including the back payments, would be “less than half” the previous totals if all five counties ratify the deal, according to Washington County Attorney Roger Wickes. The deal would lock in the county annual payments through 2018.
“There’s no fat in any of these numbers,” said Regulating District Executive Director Michael Clark of the proposal.
Clark declined to discuss any further details.
“It’s a heck of a lot less than where we started,” Wickes said.
Albany County had owed more than $7 million in payments for 2013 and back payments stretching back to 2010.
Albany County lawmakers on Monday ratified a $3.2 million settlement, according to the Albany Times Union.
Rensselaer County was expected to ratify the deal Tuesday night, officials said. Saratoga County could complete the deal on Feb. 26, if the other four counties approve it.
A state Supreme Court last year ruled that the state also benefits from the Regulating District’s dam network, which includes the Conklingville Dam. The Supreme Court panel concluded that the state should pay 12 percent of the $4.5 million annual bill.
The state’s share would jump to 22 percent under the new deal.
It’s unclear if the Regulating District can compel the state to pay.
The Regulating District has initiated conversations with state officials, Clark said.