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What’s really at stake

January 5, 2012

Although we have written a number of editorials criticizing the Holbert Quarry expansion, that does not mean that we think the quarry should be shut down, or even prevented from expanding. We think the best case is that the interested parties, which include the quarry, Lackawaxen Township, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the National Park Service (NPS) and the Upper Delaware Council (UDC) sit down and work out a schedule of operation and reclamation that respects the spirit of the River Management Plan (RMP), which governs land use in the corridor of the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River.

But it has so far been impossible for the UDC and National Park Service (NPS) to ensure that the RMP will be respected, because the township has refused to listen to them, grant either one of them standing or allow either one of them on the record. That’s why we are glad the UDC has retained lawyers to press the case. The fact that the UDC does have standing in zoning and land use decisions in the corridor is the essence of any powers that it possesses, and is the specific way in which the arm of the federal law, the Wild and Scenic River Act, has effect in the corridor. To set a precedent that the UDC has no standing is to grant license to every landowner and township in the corridor to run roughshod over every guideline in the RMP. It is, in fact, to declare the UDC superfluous.

Regardless of the ultimate disposition of the matter of the quarry, it is this challenge that cannot, under any circumstances, be allowed to stand. If it is, that would literally spell the end of the UDC and the local control of the administration of the river corridor for which so many people fought for so long.

The importance of the standing of the UDC in this type of land use decision is also why it is crucial that the organization, having been denied a hearing by the township, should submit a comment and/or request a hearing from the DEP before the comment period runs out on January 9. Unfortunately, the members of the Project Review Committee, at their last meeting in December, seemed have lost track of this fact. They voted not to send a letter to the DEP requesting to participate in a hearing on the Holbert Quarry application—a hearing that the NPS has already separately requested.

The board members who voted not to send the letter cited two reasons: they felt that it was not wise to issue any letters while a legal challenge was pending; and they were afraid that if they did so, it would involve the UDC in more legal expenses.