CALLICOON, NY — Backed by Sullivan County’s Republican legislative chairman, a Republican state senator and a range of local leaders from both parties, Rep. Antonio Delgado announced the …
CALLICOON, NY — Backed by Sullivan County’s Republican legislative chairman, a Republican state senator and a range of local leaders from both parties, Rep. Antonio Delgado announced the formation of a bipartisan Congressional Caucus for the Delaware River Watershed.
The initiative offers possibilities: more federal funding and grants for the region and, certainly, more awareness of the river valley as a tourist destination and economic powerhouse, speakers said.
On April 12, Delgado spoke at Callicoon’s new Riverside Park to a group of perhaps 50 people, while grey clouds hung overhead and the Delaware cruised slowly by.
That’s why they were all there, of course. To watch as the river valley gained official federal love.
The caucus is bipartisan and multi-state in scope; the region includes 23 congressional districts and four states, Delgado said.
Delgado thanked the other speakers and the gathered crowd, calling them the “relentless stewards of our environment. Their passion inspires me.”
His district, NY-19, is primarily rural, he said, and “we are incredibly fortunate to live in an area with so many natural resources. This is the most beautiful congressional district in the country.”
We must “protect and restore the Delaware River,” ensuring clean drinking water and a place for recreation, he said. “This is, to me, what government ought to look like.”
“It’s an incredible benefit to have our federal partners on board,” said NYS Sen. Mike Martucci.
Sullivan County Legislative Chairman Rob Doherty thanked Delgado, Martucci and “all the incredible volunteers who worked so hard.” He praised the work of the Upper Delaware Council (UDC) in taking care of the river. “For far too long, the UDC has been operating under the same budget,” he said. Maybe now that will change.
He talked about the changes to Callicoon—a planned boat launch at the park, the renovations of the Callicoon train station and about the chance of federal funding that could flow the way of the river corridor, finally.
“I have long advocated for more federal funding for the Delaware River Watershed to improve the lives of our communities and our natural habitats. The onus is on us to invest in conservation, and American innovation is our best chance to improve environmental policies, encourage stewardship, and grow the economy here in our basin,” said PA Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, co-chair of the caucus. “I’m honored to co-chair this bipartisan caucus with Congressman Delgado and look forward to diligently working to advance bipartisan coordination on marquee conservation programs throughout the Delaware River Watershed.”
The river and the support of the coalition means help for local jobs, infrastructure and flood mitigation, said Jeff Skelding, executive director of the Friends of the Upper Delaware.
Delgado and his predecessors have all worked to support the region in the past, Skelding said, citing $2.2 million in funding that had already been secured for the area. Delgado, he said, “has been a great voice in Washington for us.”
“This caucus is important for protecting the integrity of the Delaware River,” said Roberta Byron-Lockwood, executive director/CEO of the Sullivan County Visitors Association. “Tourism relies on the river... the Delaware is part of an important story” in making the area an important tourism destination.
“It’s important to have more sets of eyes on this place,” said Francis O’Shea, project manager for the Trust for Public Land, which acquired Riverside Park originally, who was in the audience. “This is fabulous. I’m so excited to show this place off.”
UDC Executive Director Laurie Ramie, who was also in the audience, succinctly summed up the occasion: “The Upper Delaware Council is always thrilled when there’s attention paid on the national level to the region. It’s to everyone’s benefit.”
[This story was revised on May 10 to indicate the bi-partisan Congressional Caucus is for the entire Delaware River Watershed, including the Upper Delaware River Valley.]