NARROWSBURG, NY — It was only one in a series of needed recommendations, not a final decision. All the same, the Upper Delaware Council (UDC) saw its 6-4 vote on September 1 as a matter of …
NARROWSBURG, NY — It was only one in a series of needed recommendations, not a final decision. All the same, the Upper Delaware Council (UDC) saw its 6-4 vote on September 1 as a matter of precedent.
The vote in question concerned Camp Fun is More Fun Outside (FIMFO), an approximately $44.9 million development occurring in the Town of Highland.
Northgate Resorts, in partnership with Sun Communities, plans to renovate the historic campsite Kittatinny Campground into an all-inclusive family resort, part of its Camp FIMFO brand. That project needs approval from a wide variety of organizations and state regulating agencies, including the UDC, the National Park Service (NPS) and the Town of Highland Planning Board; Northgate will seek those approvals throughout 2022 and into 2023.
The UDC debated the merits of Camp FIMFO at an August 23 meeting of its project review committee. That committee found the project to be in substantial conformance with the River Management Plan (RMP), the document that helps the UDC and the NPS preserve the scenic and environmental qualities of the Upper Delaware River.
The committee found the project in substantial conformance by a near-unanimous vote, with one vote against and one abstention. When the full council took up the question on September 1, several of those who had wavered on the project came out against it.
“[I] regret that I voted affirmatively to send this to the full committee, because I think there’s just not enough information,” said Town of Tusten representative Susan Sullivan.
Those who spoke against the project listed a wide array of concerns. The plans appeared to put a number of RV campsites within the river’s flood plain; the project could worsen a pre-existing bottleneck of traffic along Route 97; the plans submitted did not specify areas of land to be cleared or disturbed, and updated plans reviewed by UDC chairperson and Town of Highland representative Andy Boyar showed clear-cutting along the banks of the Beaver Brook, a trout stream.
“This is the largest development that we’ve ever had to act on,” said Town of Fremont representative Jim Grier. “We’re setting a precedent here for every hamlet along this river.”
“It’s really the township’s call on whether they want to set the precedent… we have a very narrow field of intervention as it relates to the River Management Plan,” said Shohola Township representative Aaron Robinson.
Those who spoke in favor of the project did not dispute any of the concerns raised. The UDC could only compare the project against the RMP based on the plans submitted, they said; the project ticked all the boxes in that narrow field of review, so the UDC had to pass it.
Those who voted against the project focused on their own concerns with the project, rather than the UDC’s role in reviewing it.
The UDC’s Berlin, Shohola, Deerpark, Delaware, Cochecton and Hancock representatives voted in favor of Camp FIMFO, declaring it did substantially conform with the RMP. The UDC’s Highland, Tusten, Lumberland and Damascus representatives voted against it. The UDC’s Town of Fremont representative abstained.
The UDC’s recommendation will now go to both the Highland’s planning board and the NPS to inform their separate reviews.
“Our approval in no way is telling [the Town of Highland] planning board that ‘you’re good to go, put this thing through.’ All we’re saying is that [based on the RMP] it substantially conforms… [Planning board members] certainly could require answering those legitimate questions [dissenting members] have before they make a decision,” said Town of Cochecton representative Larry Richardson.
The NPS needed several concerns answered before it could even start its review, stated NPS representative Jessica Weinman during the UDC’s discussion. The current plans did not include proposed clearing limits and certain areas of disturbance, the project did not have a soil investigation for one of the project’s septic systems, and the plans were not signed or sealed by a professional engineer; all of which is needed to be completed before the NPS could start its 45-day process of review.
In other business, the UDC heard a presentation about the Delaware Aqueduct from Jennifer Garigliano, chief of staff for the bureau of water supply for New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
The Delaware Aqueduct carries around 600 million gallons of water a day from the Upper Delaware River, supplying around half of New York City’s water needs. The DEP planned to shut the down the aqueduct in October to repair a longstanding set of leaks.
The DEP delayed that shutdown to October 1, 2023, primarily due to supply chain delays for a required secondary project in New York City. That kept the project within its original window, said Garigliano; the DEP had a three-year window between 2022 and 2024 for starting the project, and it would only be a concern if it had to delay past that point.
The specter of drought made additional delays a real concern. “If we were going through system operations right now and drawing down the Delaware system in advance, trying to get ready for the shutdown, we more than likely would have bailed out well before this point, just because of the drought conditions,” said Garigliano. If the same conditions persisted into the next year, it could lead to another delay.
The drought could more immediately affect NYC’s water supply, said Garigliano; if conditions stayed as dry as they were, the Delaware system could be under a drought watch by mid-October.
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