UDC: what are we doing here?
NARROWSBURG, NY — Nearing the end of a lengthy agenda last week, a frustrated Upper Delaware Council (UDC) Chairman Aaron Robinson asked for a definition of the UDC’s role. “Are we advisory or management?”
“We’ve been describing the UDC as co-managers for years,” National Park Service spokeswoman Carla Hahn replied.
Robinson was skeptical. “Who acts on our concerns? We don’t seem to get much done. What’s our value if there’s no action?” Robinson asked.
The exchange came after several discussions that went without resolution: what’s to be done about hundreds of huge trees clogging tributary streams since the storms of March and May; who’s going to be responsible for toxins leaking into the groundwater from an abandoned landfill; why can’t some kind of emergency telephone service be provided for “dark” cell phone stretches along the valley.
Several delegates spoke of the tree problem. Westfall’s Mike Barth said anglers are forced to detour back into the woods to get around them. Tusten’s Susan Sullivan said trees are endangering road bridges. UDC Resource Specialist Pete Gold said he has seen re-channeling along Calkins Creek in Damascus. Robinson reported hundreds of downed trees in Shohola streams. “They’re not a problem in low water, but in high water the damage probability is high. These are not small trees… They’re impounding water now.”
Representatives of the New York Department of Environmental Conservation and the PA Department of Environmental Protection had no answers about the downed trees. Bill Rudge said DEC has no program or funding stream for tree removals and requires permitting for equipment in any stream. Rudge said property owners are responsible for cleanup and suggested contacting county soil conservation offices. DEP’s Rhonda Manning listened to concerns but offered no solutions.
Rudge confirmed information about recent toxic findings in water well samplings in and around the former Barnes Landfill in the Town of Highland, but said nothing about any DEC plans to solve or mitigate the problem, since there are no living land owners of record to prosecute. (See article above.)
Sullivan County Legislator and Lumberland resident Nadia Rajsz has assumed the vacant UDC seat. In light of the recent storms, Rajsz asked about efforts to provide emergency communications along New York State Route 97 in Lumberland, where there is no cell service.
Robinson recalled extensive research, including phone company estimates that UDC acquired for a series of roadside call boxes. He said the estimated $4,000 cost per box “wasn’t well received by NPS. It would have worked.” Robinson said he’d be happy to reintroduce the plan.
Hancock’s Fred Peckham said, “A lot of people are wondering why there is no cell service in the valley. Sooner or later they’re going to come.”
Asked if there had been any movement on broadband infrastructure improvements Hahn said, “Not lately.”
“The county is trying to promote the area. I know the issues, but people want their phones,” Rajsz said.
“You can’t keep inviting people up and not expect traffic,” Sullivan said.
These discussions seemed to prompt Robinson’s remarks about the UDC role. “The River Management Plan is ‘bottom-up’ government. The municipal governments have a lot to gain, but they’ve given up a lot. They traded off zoning. There should be a tradeoff [the other way],” he said.
“We proposed the call boxes two years ago and nothing was done,” Robinson said.
UDC’s annual administrative funding has been static at $300,000 since 1988. Other federal funding for law enforcement and trash removal has been reduced or eliminated, despite being specifically required in the original authorizing legislation, he said. “These costs have not gone away. They’ve been shifted to the municipalities,” Robinson said.
Hahn admitted the council’s static funding, but local NPS funding that provides the UDC funding has not increased proportionately to costs. “We’ve been reducing staffing on regular basis,” she said.