August 28, 1942 – Commissioner Lithgow Osborne to Kenneth G. Reynolds

  • August 28, 1942 – Commissioner Lithgow Osborne to Kenneth G. Reynolds (Albany) –

Dear Ken:

While it is always a pleasure to see you it is anything but a pleasure to have to tolerate such a high grade crook as Mr. Apperson. I have spent hours of my time in the past studying the Lake George situation and I know all of Apperson’s arguments. He has certainly been given “full and proper consideration” by this department and a great deal more.

I have also talked at considerable length with Mr. Cohen and know his views. While I agree with a good many of them I do not think on the technical end he is as competent a judge as Mr. Suter, not being a hydro-electric engineer.

So far as this department is concerned I had my say on the situation in a statement made before the Lake George Association at its meeting last year, copy of which I enclose.

This department must be against the so-called reconstitution of the natural barrier because without question it would tend to increase the high water in the spring, which is a condition that has damaged state property in the past. It has no interest in extremely low water levels because these do not damage state property and this department has not authority (or even any right) under the law to go to bat in behalf of private property interests injured by low water.

So far as the prosecution of a suit against the owners of the dam, so long as the Attorney General believes that a trespass has been committed this department feels that a suit should be pressed even though it also feels that the results of such prosecution would be thoroughly unsatisfactory to most of the interests concerned.

I don’t know of any political slant in this problem nor do I know of any “reasonable solution” which could possibly satisfy the interests of the state as well. There are plenty of such problems I the world where a solution satisfactory to various perfectly legitimate private interests are impossible.

The attitude of this department is perfectly simple and perfectly clear. It is based on the law and on the facts as viewed by competent engineers. In this connection I might say that Mr. Suter has nor personal, not even any official interest, in this situation. It is entirely outside his line of duty and he was called in to advise me solely because he was the most competent man I could find. The original mistake of course was made when the State alienated its interest in the dam site or permitted it to become dubious. This however happened more than 100 years ago and very probably had its basis further back in the days of King George.

What Mssrs. Apperson, Langmuir and Reynolds at al apparently want is to have the lake levels operated for their special benefit and pleasure as campers and users of the lake. I don’t blame them for wanting that. But I should think they might recognize there are other interests involved and that it does not follow that the interests of the state are co-terminus with their own. And furthermore, that it is extremely improper for the state to back one set of interests as against another set of private interests.

I believe that the pamphlet dated August 24 issued by the Lake George Association sets forth the factual situation better than anything I have seen.

In this connection it is interesting to note that Dr. Stanton at one time was hand and glove with Apperson and Langmuir. After he investigated the matter thoroughly he came around to the point of view of this department. The same is, generally speaking, true of Colonel Woodbury. The same would be true of you if you went into the questions thoroughly enough.

I am terribly sorry about Lydia’s illness. I hope she is better.

Yours very sincerely, Lithgow