New UDC riverkeepers

By LINDA DROLLINGER
Posted 2/12/20

Three government organizations responsible for overseeing the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River (UPDE) each introduced a new …

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New UDC riverkeepers

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NARROWSBURG, NY — Three government organizations responsible for overseeing the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River (UPDE) each introduced a new delegate at the February 6 Upper Delaware Council (UDC) meeting, following the swearing-in of 2020 UDC officers: Larry Richardson, chair; Jeffrey Dexter, vice chair; and Al Henry, secretary-treasurer.

The UDC itself has a new representative: James Gutekunst, a Town of Highland board member, who has replaced Highland’s former UDC representative, Caitlin Haas. Born in Callicoon, Gutekunst spent decades working on Wall Street before returning home to Sullivan County.

As of February 3, Jessica Weinman was named acting superintendent of the National Park Service’s UPDE, filling in for superintendent Kristina Heister, who is on detail to the National Military Park at Gettysburg until May 30.

Weinman comes to the UPDE from Steamtown National Historic Site in Scranton. Having been at her current assignment for only three days prior to the UDC meeting, Weinman confessed that she is learning on the fly and was excited for the opportunity to do so at a meeting of UDC partners.

Kristen Bowman Kavanagh, deputy executive director of the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC), also saw the meeting as an opportunity to gain additional background for her new position. At the job for just a little more than three months, Bowman Kavanagh holds two degrees in civil engineering from Stanford University. Bowman Kavanagh is a resident of Philadelphia and a registered professional engineer in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and 10 other states, bringing more than 25 years of experience in water-resource modeling and engineering to the DRBC.

Bowman Kavanagh was introduced to the meeting partners by colleague Peter Eschbach, DRBC’s director of external affairs and communications. As he helped her field questions from the floor—“Will fracking be permitted in the river corridor? How will climate change affect the Delaware River?”—Eschbach summarized the ongoing DRBC effort to address questions and concerns generated two years ago during public hearings on the fracking issue.

“Some questions dealt with the possibility of earthquakes being precipitated by the fracking process. We have only about 40 full-time staff members and none of them had expertise in that area, so we had to seek advice from outside consultants. That’s just one example of many such instances,” said Eschbach.

But, he noted, the overwhelming public response to the fracking issue and recent concerns about climate change gave rise to DRBC’s sponsorship of a new public outreach initiative, Our Shared Waters, made possible by a William Penn Foundation grant.

The original intent of the project was to unite stakeholder groups in the common mission of river education and advocacy, as well as discovery, protection and restoration of river resources.

“At the outset, we thought we knew most of the stakeholders, but soon discovered that almost every one of the 216 creeks and tributaries in the 330-mile-long river has its own watchdog organization, many previously unknown to us,” he said.

As the scope of the project expanded to include more stakeholder groups, the definition of stakeholder expanded to include all individuals whose lives intersected with the river and its resources. Eschbach left the meeting partners with this thought: “Citizen scientists, litter pluckers, pollution whistleblowers and river recreationists are both stakeholders and riverkeepers.”

Anyone interested in seeing how the river intersects with his or her life is invited to check out the project via its website: www.oursharedwaters.org.

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