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August 29, 2014
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UDC grapples with comments on NYS draft SGEIS, Executive director Douglass to retire

George Fluhr Sr., front center, Shohola Township alternate representative, responds to a question about his choice to abstain from a vote on the draft comment letter to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation on its draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement.


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.

“So you abstained personally, not for the town?” asked Ritter.
“I represented the town and I exercised my option of abstaining,” said Fluhr. “I have no obligation to consult Mr. Rando.”

Town of Deerpark representative David Dean said he thinks it’s time to revisit the RMP and its guidelines. “All documents, including the U.S. Constitution, are amendable,” he said.
McGuinness responded, “The document is amendable, but it’s based on the land and water use guidelines which the secretary put in place during the local discussions back in the day.

Those guidelines are not amendable. The communities are supposed to have zoning in place according to the guidelines and this body is supposed to have discussions about ways to make it all work in a partnership.

“Your Congresspeople voted and made this a wild and scenic river, and told the secretary to work with local governments and residents to develop land and water use guidelines to provide protection for this corridor so that the quality of life would remain the same. This plan guides how everyone is going to work together to make sure that this valley is protected for present and future generations. The guidelines are not amendable unless Congress amends them.”

McGuinness reminded the council of their role. “You just
decided not to approve the letter to New York State,” he said. “That letter is supposed to tell New York State how drilling and fracking is going to affect this corridor, not how it will affect New York State. The job of this body is to protect this river corridor according to the guidelines. Understand what they say and what your responsibilities are.”

Fluhr added the council was established for essentially two reasons. “One was to protect the river, the second was to protect the private property along the river,” he said. “We ended up with the RMP. Each township had the option of accepting it or not. The towns then were obligated to do zoning to protect the river from certain things. Over the years, with a lot of controversy, we’ve always been able to find a middle way between these two extremes.”

In other matters, concerns raised about the excessive rainfall in August and the current levels of the reservoirs brought a reminder from Delaware River Basin Commission branch manager William Muszynski that the release schedules are set by the Flexible Flow Management Program. Town of Hancock, NY representative Fred Peckham responded, “The bottom line is there’s too much water in the reservoirs.”

The nominating committee has recommended a slate of officers for 2012 to be voted on at the monthly meeting on January 5, 2012. Nominations are Nadia Rajsz, Town of Lumberland, NY, chairperson; Scott Rando, Shohola Township, PA, vice chairperson; and Jack Niflot, Town of Fremont, NY, secretary-treasurer.

The board voted unanimously to appoint UDC public relations/fundraising specialist Laurie Ramie as acting executive director effective December 5 with no time period specified or current plan to advertise the position. For more information visit www.upperdelawarecouncil.org or call 845/252-3022.

The first letter pertains to

The first letter pertains to the application by Wayne Holbert that seeks to expand two existing five-acre mining permits into one 40-acre major mining permit at the Holbert Brothers Quarry in Lackawaxen Township, PA. The letter cites the UDC’s objections to the permit, noting that the quarry is “already out of substantial compliance with the Land and Water Use Guidelines in the River Management plan.
dropcards

Excellent Superintendent

I have seen the passion of Superintendent McGuinness several times, in action, and he is superb. Praise, and thanks, are offered to him.

He is quoted as saying:

“You just decided not to approve the letter to New York State,” he said. “That letter is supposed to tell New York State how drilling and fracking is going to affect this corridor, not how it will affect New York State. The job of this body is to protect this river corridor according to the guidelines. Understand what they say and what your responsibilities are.”

That is the difference between a man such as Mr. McGuinness, and another, such as Mr. Fred Peckham. Mr. Peckham, seems to want to, certainly, lease his property. Under the pseudonym, Kilgour Farms, he has been a tireless (it seems as if he has absolutely nothing else to do), advocate for shale gas extraction in the Delaware River Basin. His property is, as I understand, situated directly on the Delaware River. It seems that nothing will ever persuade him otherwise. So I ask, why is is serving as the representative of Hancock? His mind was closed, from the beginning, with a lock on it. No information contrary to his belief, or more importantly, his desire to extract shale gas, could ever penetrate that skull.

This is a man, who expresses his contempt, for those who feel that such shale gas extraction, as currently market oriented, regulated, and enforced, is a threat to anything. He mocks, and vehemently opposes, the involvement of the Federal agencies, such as the EPA. He refuses to accept the possibility of any shale gas extraction responsibility for the Dunkard Creek disaster, and he has misrepresented, at every opportunity, the EPA findings in relation to Pavillion, Wyoming, which have been 3 years in the making, and the clock is still ticking.

The US EPA has just recently completed, what could be called, "Phase 3" of their investigation, and they point their strong finger at the gas industry, especially, Encana, a Canadian company, for goodness sake.

When I drive up 97 towards Callicoon, I see a sign on the side of a barn that says something like, "NPS GET OUT". It has been there since I arrived in 1989.

It should be updated to: "FRED PECKHAM, GET OUT".

The area has changed, immensely, especially the closer one gets to the Delaware River.

It is well past time for the dinosaurs, who seem to not be able to support their lifestyle, without the industrialization, and contamination, of gas extraction, to leave.

An immense thank you, as well, to Mr. William Douglass!

Your work has been very much appreciated.

My apology to Fred

In referring to the NPS GET OUT sign, and replacing it with Fred Peckham, I got too cute for my own good. I admire that Mr. Peckham gives his time to represent Hancock at the UDC, and I respect (even though my words don't always portray respect) any and all who visibly participate in trying to achieve their vision for the community.

No one should "get out".

I do wish that "Kilgour Farms" would retire, and that Mr. Peckham would step further into the spotlight.

In the meantime, I'll work on bettering my own discourse.

You certainly have your work

You certainly have your work cut out for you.

Amen

Amen.