A presentation was made to the Upper Delaware Council (UDC), August 3rd, about the legacy of the Delaware & Hudson (D&H) Canal and Gravity Railroad, by Cliff Robinson Jr., chairman of the D&H Transportation Heritage Council.

NARROWSBURG, NY - A presentation was made to the Upper Delaware Council (UDC), August 3rd, about the legacy of the Delaware & Hudson (D&H) Canal and Gravity Railroad, by Cliff Robinson Jr., chairman of the D&H Transportation Heritage Council.

He noted that the D&H Canal Company, which operated the canal from 1828 to 1898, is thought to be the first major company using a “vertical” organizational structure, in the U.S., as well as the first million dollar stock corporation. It was a wonder in engineering and helping to meet a need for energy (anthracite coal) in a growing nation.

(In addition, the D&H is responsible for introducing the steam locomotive to America, for commercial purposes by way of the Stourbridge Lion at Honesdale.)

Several communities along the way of the gravity railroad and canal owe their existence and early growth in the 19th century to the enterprise. On the Pennsylvania side, these include Carbondale, Waymart, Honesdale, Hawley and Lackawaxen. Port Jervis, NY is so named as it was a port on the canal, and Jervis refers to John B. Jervis, chief engineer for the D&H Canal Company.

The D&H Canal became an astounding success, undergoing several expansions to transport even greater amounts of coal. It was finally eclipsed by the growing reliance on, and improvement of steam locomotives.

Although there are numerous areas where the expert stone masonry walls still stand, and other artifacts, he made note that many people living by the 108 mile canal route don’t even know their significance. No overall effort has been enacted to provide legal protection for these historical assets.
The D&H Transportation Heritage Council, a coalition of historical societies along the route of the gravity railroad and canal sharing interest in this heritage, is working to raise appreciation of the story and market what each of the member organizations are trying to do.

The National Park Service aids in preservation and interpretation of some of those assets on the Upper Delaware, particularly the Roebling Bridge, originally a D&H canal aqueduct built in 1847, and a section of canal and towpath on the New York side, near the bridge. The Park Service also hosts school groups in the spring to teach about the canal story.

Water levels good

There’s lots of water in the Upper Delaware this summer. Kenneth Najjar, Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC), pointed out their “roller coaster ride- like” graph,which shows that on November 23, 2016, the reservoir storage levels improved to the point the line rose from drought watch; the line as of July 25, 2017 shows the levels are 20 billion gallons (bg) above the long-term median. The measured flow at the Montague gage at Milford Beach averaged 2,910 cubic feet per second (cfs), 119.2% above the norm. Cannonsville Reservoir was 91.3% full; Pepacton was 95.2%. Nadir said this was “good news” but cautioned a dry spell could change things quickly.

Membership policy

A resolution was passed supporting adoption of a UDC Member Participation Policy. UDC representatives or alternates from member towns and townships will receive $35.00 per meeting attended, with allowances for travel reimbursements.

This involves a change in the bylaws effective in Fiscal Year 2018 (Oct. 1, 2017), to comply with the National Park Service policy for accountability of federally-funded expenses. This came about from an audit of the Park Service of the Upper Delaware.

The towns/townships were receiving $100 a month since the UDC was created, but there was nothing to show where the funds went. It was up to each member town/township how to distribute the funds. The new policy also encourages member representative participation at UDC committees.

Emergency call boxes

Laurie Ramie, UDC Executive Director, was on a press conference with Sullivan County about whether the County would consider helping to pay for a system of emergency telephone boxes placed along NY Route 97. The UDC has proposed this as a means for the public to contact 9-1-1, where cell phone coverage is spotty. The UDC identified an 11 mile stretch along 97 in the Town of Lumberland, proposing the installation of six call boxes. This section was shown to have very weak or no cell phone reception.

Frontier Communications, which provides the phone service in that area, has stated the plan is feasible, and provided cost estimates.

Ramie reported that the County representative on the conference call was skeptical to the emergency call box idea, and asked instead if the UDC would provide a letter of support for a cell tower that could potentially provide coverage for “95%” of the river corridor. The County referred to a company in Liberty that was putting together proposals, but did not have any specific locations.
Ramie replied on the call, that the emergency phones were seen as an alternative to cell towers, which are viewed by the River Management Plan as incompatible with the corridor. What occurs outside the corridor is not within the UDC’s concern, and she said they were not prejudging any proposal. She said they would be interested in hearing what the County has in mind.

She also assured on the call that it was not Frontier that was suggesting this as revenue maker, but rather the UDC had taken the initiative. The County was also concerned about setting a funding precedent, although Ramie replied that the Upper Delaware Corridor is somewhat unique because of the flooding potential.

Narrowsburg Bridge

NOTE: Narrowsburg Bridge will be closed August 28 through August 31 between the hours of 9 p.m. and 7 a.m., for installation of a temporary barrier, PennDOT reports.

Some false information has been spread on Facebook announcing dates for overnight closures of the Narrowsburg Bridge. PennDOT is preparing to work at rehabilitating the structure, but had not yet announced when the span will be temporarily shut down. PennDOT has promised advanced notice. The bridge has been down to one lane since 2013, awaiting the necessary upgrade. The weight limit was also lowered that year. Carla Hahn, National Park Service, related that PennDOT anticipated closures by late August or early September, when all of the steel has arrived.

The UDC meets on the first Thursday of the month at 7 p.m. at 211 Bridge St., Narrowsburg, NY. The office may be reached at 845-252-3022.