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November 27, 2014
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Fireworks display under discussion: alternatives being explored


The American ideal of community dialogue is helping to resolve an ongoing Independence Day dilemma over the co-existence of our national bird and Narrowsburg’s annual July 4th fireworks display.

Following last week’s decision by the Lava Fire Department, sponsor of the 2012 fireworks, to cancel the event, a representative of Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther contacted Tusten Town Councilwoman Andrea Reynosa, instigating a conference call late Monday to discuss alternatives.

The conversation included Reynosa, supervisor Carol Wingert, Allison Horan from Gunther’s office, the regional director of the NY Department of Environmental Conservation Willie Janeway, and Bruce Gettel of the Lava Fire Department.

The goal was to try to save the fireworks on July 4th, and several ways that might happen were considered. One was to move the display further up the river by a half mile or so.

Another was to have the town assume the liability if something were to go wrong; and a third was to make the fireworks display less noisy.

Ultimately, those involved in the discussion opted to move the date of the fireworks display until Labor Day. At that time, the eagles would have fledged. According to Reynosa, Gunther’s office is going to hold the $3200 deposit the fire department put up for the event.

For next year, those involved may seek other dates or locations for the fireworks.

The Lava Fire Department cancelled the July 4th fireworks following an investigation conducted by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). The decision came after the department learned it could face penalties and fines if negative impacts occurred to the American bald eagle family, including two adults and three young, which nests in the Narrowsburg flats.

The FWS agency had no authority to cancel the display; it is
charged with enforcing the National Bald Eagle Management Guidelines specified in the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, which states that Class B explosives—which include fireworks—should not be detonated within a half-mile of an active roost, or within one mile in the case of an open area such as the Delaware River. (See www.fws.gov/midwest/Eagle/guidelines/bgepa.html).

The FWS informed the Lava Fire Department and the fireworks company that a violation of the act could result in a fine of $100,000 ($200,000 for organizations), imprisonment for one year, or both, for a first offense.

The FWS investigation was conducted in response to The River Reporter’s (TRR) follow up on an incident brought to the attention of TRR by a Tusten resident who discovered one of the Narrowsburg eagle fledglings stranded on a spit of land below the nest on the morning following last year’s display.

The issue of the fireworks and the proximity of the eagle’s nest have been publicly discussed at various town board meetings in past years.

Some business owners recently expressed frustration and disappointment that the crowds of July 4th viewers, who might have visited their shops or dined in area restaurants before the fireworks, will go elsewhere.

Others in the community expressed optimism that a workable solution could be found to accommodate the fireworks and protect the eagles.

Discussion

Having been a participant in the conference call referenced, there are two points I would like to clarify. At NO time was it an option for the town assume the liability if something were to go wrong, in fact in my earlier discussions with FWS and protecting the taxpayer, that was one of my very first questions to him, "is the township liable?", after a string of questins, he determined that the town (and therefore taxpayer dollars) was not liable in any way.

Secondly, a simple misunderstanding when you write: "Gunther’s office is going to hold the $3200 deposit the fire department put up for the event." When in fact Gunther's office is contacting the fireworks company to see if that $3,200 can be applied for a future event, they are not holding it personally to my knowledge.