UDC grapples with comments on NYS draft SGEIS, Executive director Douglass to retire
December 7, 2011 —
For the past 22 years, William Douglass has seen the River Management Plan (RMP) put to the test time and again. The executive director of the Upper Delaware Council (UDC), who announced his retirement effective January 1 at the council’s monthly meeting on December 1, got to see the process play out once again as members weighed in on a draft comment letter to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation on its draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement.
The letter was ultimately defeated and sent back to committee. Discussion was tense at times, and the process was observed by two guests who accompanied National Park Service (NPS) Superintendent Sean McGuinness: Rick Harris, NPS associate regional director for Natural Resources and Science and Gay Vietzke, the new deputy regional director for Parks Operations, who toured the Upper Delaware to learn more about the region and the issues it faces.
The UDC was established in 1988 to oversee implementation of the RMP for the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River, a 1978 Congressionally designated unit of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System in which more than 85% of the property remains privately owned. The UDC operates under a cooperative agreement partnership with the NPS to carry out the 1986 RMP and its Land and Water Use Guidelines.
Several times during the meeting, McGuinness referenced a copy of the RMP lying on the table in front of him, reminding council members of their responsibility to know and understand the plan and its guidelines, and to make decisions based on upholding its goals and objectives.
A roll-call vote established that four New York towns voted in favor of approving the letter (Tusten, Highland, Lumberland and Cochecton), while four New York towns opposed it (Delaware, Deerpark, Fremont and Hancock). Two Pennsylvania townships voted against the proposed letter (Damascus and Berlin), while Shohola Township abstained.
During public comment, Shohola alternate representative George Fluhr Sr. was asked by township resident Shirley Masuo to explain his abstention. He said, “I have not been privy to the discussion here and I felt I would prefer to abstain.”
Town of Tusten representative Tony Ritter pointed out that Shohola Township representative Scott Rando had been present at the committee meeting where the initial draft letter was approved. Ritter asked if Fluhr was aware that Rando had approved the letter. “I’m aware of that,” replied Fluhr.