[Editor’s note: This information was supplied by the UDC following their May 4th meeting.]

UPPER DELAWARE - Upper Delaware Council (UDC) has sent a letter to New York-Pennsylvania Joint Interstate Bridge Commission asking that this agency take over responsibility for arranging for river height signage on the bridges spanning the 73.4 mile stretch of the river under jurisdiction of the National Park Service (NPS).

Previously, it was the Park Service that took care of these color-coded gages informing boaters of the river level. The UDC is proposing a revised marker, to reflect the six foot level set by the NPS which triggers required use of life jackets by all ages, when on the Upper Delaware.

Although the signs are vigorously supported by the UDC as another way to alert the public to rising river levels, especially given the spotty reception for cellular technology, NPS Superintendent Kris Heister stated her reasoning at the Council’s April meeting, for not expanding on the usage of the signs.

She stressed that the signs are misleading in that the six-foot level falls between color bands (which interpret river height as “average” - green zone; up to 6 feet; “high” - yellow zone - 6-12 feet), or “very high” -red zone - 12 feet and over). Also, Heister stated that by the time the river user is on the river and reads the marker, it is too late to get a life jacket and put it on (if the boater did not bring one).

It is the UDC’s contention that the signs can be revised, and would be of no cost to the NPS if made part of the contracts the Park Service has with companies maintaining, repairing or building a bridge. Revised river height signs could be installed at the time other work is being contracted.

“Our organization believes that these signs are still valuable and prudent,” the UDC letter states. “River height gauges offer an easily-accessible and interpreted visual information source for river users to supplement all the additional methods of communicating various river conditions.”

New York-Pennsylvania Joint Interstate Bridge Commission involves both PA Department of Transportation and NY Department of Transportation, which each have a share of the bridges spanning the Delaware under their responsibility.

The UDC suggests that where appropriate, the signs should be recessed into the bridge pier to better withstand weather conditions and resist any vandalism. They should be placed on bridges that have an associated public access in order to offer an explanatory chart on shore of that sign’s significance and to provide other key information, such as the National Park Service’s River Conditions Hotline available at 845-252-7100 or social media platforms (while acknowledging that securing cellular or broadband service can be challenging in our rural area, which further justifies the helpful nature of visual reference signs).  

The UDC stated that they are ready to assist the Commission in designing appropriate signage.

Laurie Ramie, Executive Director of the UDC, plans to present this letter during Public Comment at the May 24th annual meeting of the Commission, planned at the PennDOT District #4 offices in Dunmore.

National Park Service statistics documented 264,362 visitors coming to NPS sites in 2016 to enjoy the recreational amenities of the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River.

“Many of these visitors are unfamiliar with the average depths and potential risk factors of a free-flowing river,” the UDC letter states. “Local residents have a vested interest as well in obtaining a quick read on river height changes in the context of preparing for potential flood conditions.

“We hope that the Commission sees the value in continuing the river height signage program on bridges, in tandem with the national award-winning educational campaign by the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River Water Safety Partners Committee on which the Upper Delaware Council actively participates.”
James A. Greier, UDC Chairperson, signed the letter.

Cleanup grants

• Among other items addressed at the May 4th UDC meeting, was approval of a resolution for the 2017 River Cleanup Grant Program. A press release was issued May 8th listing approved grants for river and shoreline cleanup projects. They include:
Town of Deerpark $1,250
Town of Highland $1,200
Town of Lumberland $775
Damascus Township $750.

This is the fourth year that the UDC has chosen to designate a portion of its federal funding allocation to help subsidize litter removal projects. The UDC hopes to encourage the coordination of local cleanup is to help maintain the pristine quality of the 73.4 miles designated under the National Wild & Scenic Rivers Act in 1978.

• A donation of $200 to the Narrowsburg Beautification Group was approved, to maintain the UDC garden lot in front of the UDC offices at 211 Bridge Street.

• Jeff Skelding from Friends of the Upper Delaware River gave a presentation on the Delaware County Stream Corridor Management Plan.

• Dr. Tom Fikslin, Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC), gave a report on water quality monitoring.

Gas well drilling

A letter was previously sent by the UDC to the DRBC about the status of the de facto moratorium the DRBC has on natural gas development in the river basin (which includes in part, Wayne and Pike counties, PA).

Steven Tambini, DRBC Executive Director, responded in a letter dated May 1, 2017, noting that his responses are limited to information that is publicly available, since the subject is a matter of active litigation. His responses were taken from what the DRBC has posted on their web site.

Seven years ago, on May 5, 2010, the commissioners of the DRBC approved a resolution directing staff to develop draft regulations on well pads in the shale for notice and comment making, Consideration by the DRBC of well pad dockets were postponed, pending adoption of regulations.

By resolution and order dated Dec. 8, 2010, the Commission preserved the right of certain persons to file an application raising the issue of whether exploratory natural gas projects are properly subject to the DRBC’s review and approval, and to obtain an administrative hearing if the application is denied or not considered.

Draft natural gas development regulations were published on Dec. 9, 2010 and the comment period closed on April1 5, 2011. Nearly 69,000 comments were submitted, and revised draft natural gas development regulations were issued on Nov. 8, 2011.

On March 14, 2017 at a DRBC business meeting, Commission Chair Lt. Col. Michael Bliss read a statement that concerned the status of the natural gas regulations.

He noted that regulations have not yet been adopted. Since 2011 the DRBC has neither received nor processed any applications for natural gas development projects. The de facto moratorium continues.

The entire statement by Bliss may be found at the DRBC web site at this link:
www.nj.gov/drbc/progams/natural/.

The UDC meets on the first Thursday at 7 p.m. at their offices at 211 Bridge St., Narrowsburg. The office may be contacted at 845-252-3022. Visit online at www.upperdelawarecouncil.org.