UPPER DELAWARE - The contractor for the mapping project being undertaken by the National Park Service, Upper Delaware Scenic & Recreational River, explained the many advantages of using GIS, at the January 5th Upper Delaware Council (UDC) session.

Using overlays depicting various aspects of a parcel, the new interactive, digitized map will allow quicker and more accurate visualization, analysis and interpretation, according to Dr. Claire Jantz of Shippensburg University’s Center for Land Use and Sustainability (CLUS).

Overlays will show many types of information such as wetland data, political boundaries, location relative to the federal Upper Delaware Corridor, population, zoning, roads, soil types, conservation easements, land use and flood hazards.

The Park Service is upgrading their maps which date from the founding of the Upper Delaware Scenic & Recreational River. The 73.4 mile segment, totaling 55,574.5 acres, was designated by Congress in 1978 as part of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. The corridor covers roughly “ridge-line to ridge-line” on both sides of the river, from just below Hancock NY to the Millrift area of Pike County, PA.

Planning boards and other agencies concerned with parcels or proposed projects in or near this corridor, seek the most updated information to base their decisions.

CLUS is working under a five year contract with the Park Service to develop the digitized map. Once completed, the map will be available to the states, counties, towns and townships marking the corridor, as well as the Park Service and UDC.

Asked if the map would be publicly accessible, Carla Hahn, Assistant Superintendent for the Park Service, said that the public will be able to approach their local planning department to use the map. She said that the there was a limit to how many entities the Park Service was able to release its own data to.

Shannon Thol created the prototype of the mapping program for her master’s thesis at Penn State. She has made it available to the National Park Service on the Upper Delaware.

CLUS is in the process of meeting with planning departments in the counties and impacted towns and townships, in order to collect data they have.

Dr. Jantz explained that by using spatial overlays on a computer screen, there will not be any need to tack various kinds of maps on the wall, of differing scales, and then try to mentally overlay and compare them back and forth. Data on the map, however, is only as good as is inputted. She cautioned that the digitized map will not provided survey-quality data, if you zoom in very closely. Accuracy provided can be variable. “When you really get down to it, the only way to know that it is true it is to get down on the ground and survey it,” Dr. Jantz said.

Technical support will be offered to help planning departments and other agencies to implement the mapping tool.
Getting data compiled and making sure technical aspects are compatible are the focus in the first couple years. Counties collect and manage their data sets differently, and these systems must be reconciled. Tax parcel data changes frequently. CLUS is thinking of having the map updated twice a year to once a year.

Hahn said that CLUS is giving the Park Service the skills and technical expertise to know how to make use of mapping information and apply it to make decisions.

A project web site was recently launched: centerforlanduse.org/projects/upde/

Also discussed:

UDC officers were elected for 2017: Chairman, James A. Greier, of the Town of Fremont; Vice-Chairperson, David Dean, Town of Deerpark and Secretary-Treasurer, Al Henry, Berlin Township. Large-scale solar energy projects are starting to impact the Upper Delaware area. The UDC asked their member townships and towns for opinions before crafting a position paper, weighing the appropriateness of these systems under the River Management Plan. Seven of the municipal members sent responses. Here is a summary of positions from townships on the PA side:

Berlin Township, Wayne County - The Board of Supervisors views proposed solar farms favorably as “green” energy but will address its concerns when projects are in the actual planning stages.

Shohola Township, Pike County - Opposes the formation of a general policy or position regarding compatibility of commercial solar collection facilities within the Upper Delaware Corridor as infringing upon private property rights. Determinations should be made by township review on a case-by-case basis.

Comments had not yet been received from Damascus Township in Wayne County or Lackawaxen or Westfall townships in Pike County, which are also UDC member townships. Levels of water contained in the New York City reservoirs that empty into the Upper Delaware, was measured on January 3rd to be 89 billion gallons below the long-term median and 9 bg above the drought watch line, according to the Delaware River Basin Commission. Cannonsville Reservoir on the West Branch of the Delaware was at 35.4% capacity; Pepacton on the East Branch was at 58.4% and Neversink was at 60.8%. River flow as measured at the Montague Gauge at Milford Beach, for December 2016 averaged 78.7% of normal. The Nature Conservancy has been awarded a state grant of $340,000 to go towards the acquisition of approximately 318 acres near Route 402 in Porter Township, Pike County, Tim Dugan, manager, Delaware State Forest District, PA Department of Conservation & Natural Resources (DCNR), announced. The land would be added to the Delaware State Forest. The grant also is meant to help protect the Bushkill watershed. The funds came from the 2016 Community Recreation Conservation Grants program administer by DCNR.

For more information, contact the UDC at 211 Bridge St., Narrowsburg, NY, (845) 252-3022, or visit the website at www.upperdelawarecouncil.org.