UPDATE: FEDERAL FUNDING HAS BEEN RESTORED, according to UDC Executive Director Laurie Ramie, February 8. See the separate story. The story below, published before the update, will provide background of the crisis that was felt.- Editor's Note
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Several comments have been received concerning the federal funding crisis which the Upper Delaware Council (UDC) is experiencing. As discussed in the prior edition, if the UDC does not receive its annual $300,000 allocation- at least part- before March 30, 2018, the Council may have to lay off their employees and shut the office in Narrowsburg, NY.

UPDATE: FEDERAL FUNDING HAS BEEN RESTORED, according to UDC Executive Director Laurie Ramie, February 8. See the separate story. The story below, published before the update, will provide background of the crisis that was felt.- Editor's Note
..........

NARROWSBURG, NY - Several comments have been received concerning the federal funding crisis which the Upper Delaware Council (UDC) is experiencing. As discussed in the prior edition, if the UDC does not receive its annual $300,000 allocation- at least part- before March 30, 2018, the Council may have to lay off their employees and shut the office in Narrowsburg, NY.

The UDC was organized in 1988. The Council’s existence developed from special provisions in the 1978 legislation which designated the Upper Delaware River as a component of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. The same legislation called for a river management plan and gave the task of its coordinated implementation to the UDC. The National Park Service, which agreed to limit its jurisdiction to the river surface and the small amount of acreage it owns, partners with the UDC under a long-term cooperative agreement.

Funding for the UDC’s operation was to stem from an annual allocation from the U.S. Department of the Interior, which was set at $300,000 and has never been increased, and allocations from the states of PA and NY- which were never provided.

The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) has been reviewing its cooperative agreements valued at $50,000 or more; the allocation for the UDC has been set in reserve since the start of the current fiscal year in October 2017. At the same time, the DOI required an audit of the relatively small amount of non-federal Unrestricted Funds, the balance of which is the only remaining funds the UDC has to operate. These funds are dwindling to the point that the UDC has set March 30 as the day they may need to close, with only $15,000 remaining for essential expenses.

What is at stake here?

What does it mean for the Upper Delaware River Valley should the UDC cease to exist?
Here are a few more comments from UDC members, provided to The News Eagle.

Any individual or anyone representing an organization that would like to add their thoughts about the UDC and the dilemma at hand is encouraged to send them to pbecker@neagle.com or to contact Editor Peter Becker at 570-226-4547.

Chairman Aaron Robinson
Rep. for Shohola Township

“The UDC was not funded for the first quarter (3 months) of 2017 due to a similar DOI multi-bureau review of grants & cooperative agreements such as ours. The distinction is that unlike most other organizations, the UDC relies solely on this Federal funding for its operations. Both suspension of payments are despite the prior approval of our budgets by the NPS.

“At stake is a complete breakdown of the method upon which the 1988 River Management Plan (RMP) is fulfilled. A shut down could cause dysfunction of the plan's requirements as any trust that developed over the past 30 years between local municipalities and the Federal government would surely be lost.

“These are just a few at risk items that come to mind:

The UDC does the technical review of any applicable project proposed within the corridor to determine if it complies with the uses and standards set forth in the RMP. If needed, the UDC works with member Townships as part of the review process to achieve conformance. This RMP mandated process conducted by the UDC would be suspended.

As emphasized in the RMP, the UDC is the organization that represents the interests of the Townships and the property rights of its residents in a wide range of areas. It acts as a clearing house and a 'one stop shop' to work out issues between the Federal Government and local Municipalities. Other than a fragmented 'each Township for its self' process, it is difficult to envision how local concerns get resolved in a uniform manner.

The UDC had a three person team of dedicated, competent and dependable employees that perform the routine and one-time special tasks undertaken by the UDC to a standard of excellence. Our Exec. Director has been with the UDC for 2 decades in many capacities, We have invested in enhancing our employees' skills and reciprocally they have invested in the UDC with superior performance. Now due the uncertainty of our funding in 2 weeks we are losing our outstanding secretary. The potential loss of additional staff looms over our heads. Should this happen it will cripple our ability operate effectively and efficiently. Should the UDC close and staff is lost, it would be an insurmountable task to restore its current level of functions.

‘[If the UDC was forced to close,] 30 years of arduous work would be undermined that developed the common ground between local municipalities and the NPS to cooperatively implement the RMP. Many will view this 30 year experiment as a farce. Ultimately this could result in a very haphazard observance of the RMP by all parties.”
 
Larry Richardson
Rep. for Town of Cochecton since 1989
Chairman for three terms

“We have never had this kind of delay in releasing already approved funding. We have never had a challenge to our integrity as this prolonged audit of our unrestricted funds would seem to question.

“Since this Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River Management Plan was a first of its kind; where a segment of the National Park system was not government owned and would rely on local zoning and subdivision regulations for protection there has always been a concerted effort by all parties to make it work.  

“While I do not blame the NPS Superintendent, it does seem that there is a lack of understanding about the important function the Council plays in keeping the goal of the Federal legislation in sight as policy decisions move up the administrative ladder.  

“If the Council is forced to cease operations because the federal funding now sitting in the  NPS's account, cannot be released it will lead to bad feelings between the member towns and townships that could take a very long time to heal. Finding excellent staff to perform the lion's share of the Council's work is not easy and as you know we are already losing one of those precious staff people.

“If the Council is unable to continue, all projects and zoning changes inside the designated river corridor will need to be sent to the National Park Service for review and comments, eliminating the local over site provided by the Council. One of the most import duties of the Council is to consider the private property rights of our citizens as we review projects that may not fit neatly within the Land & Water Use Guidelines.

“Although the NPS has had good local support for 30 years, taking away local over site and protection of local interests could easily raise the type of ill feelings that took so long to lessen.

“If one look's carefully old signs of the distrust of the NPS are still evident.

“This funding challenge to the UDC has gone on for way too long, nevertheless I am optimistic that someone in the administration will get the "message" and acknowledge that the NPS is better with the Council than without.”
 
Harold Roeder
Rep. for Town of Fremont for 20 years
Former chairman

“This present federal funding crisis is the worst I have seen in the 20 years that I have served on the board.  We have not received any of the funding due us from the Park Service since sometime in October (2017).  As a result, we have had to use our unrestricted funds to keep going and we are very close to running totally out of all funds.  It looks like curtains sometime in March. 

“Our staff of three is the best we have had in years and the uncertainty of continued employment has caused one to resign as of the middle of this month.  This has dealt us a major blow.  It is like rubbing salt into a wound.

“We have had other challenges in the past, but nothing like the crisis of the present.  Not only has our funding been held up by no fault or action on our part, but an entire series of demands and threats from the Park Service was thrust upon us to boot. 

“The pressure is overwhelming for the staff and demeaning to the representatives of this council as well as to all the member towns and townships who have been part of the UDC over the past 30 years.  Add to this the mess of the Federal Governments having to rely on continuing resolutions in order to fund our country and the result is not very exciting.

“Since the UDC came into being, technical assistant grants of over $800,000 has been awarded to the member towns and townships for helping with developing zoning, master plans, historical information and so many, many more projects.

“The most important part about the UDC is that it is a single unit which represents thirteen town and township members via a partnership with the National Park Service. Its River Management Plan is supposed to help conserve the river and its corridor as well as to help protect the private property rights of landowners within the corridor. Should the UDC closed, each of its thirteen members will now have to deal with the NPS alone. 

“One can easily say that trust has been deeply eroded between the UDC and the NPS. The level of optimism at this point in time is pretty low.  I would liken it to the anxiety and frustration of a divorce.  While there is always hope, I do believe that even if a “rabbit is pulled out of a hat” at the last moment, it will be a quite some time before the UDC can restore its trust.  So sad!”

Secretary/Treasurer Alan Henry
Rep. for Berlin Township since 2012
Retired Nat. Park Service Ranger

“This needs to be resolved… this has been going on since the beginning of the Fiscal Year, October 1. The council  has been writing letters to everybody and anybody we can think of. It appears no one can solve it.

“Kris [Superintendent Kristana Heister, National Park Service Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River] said she thinks a remedy is in the near future, but when? The time frame is such that council will have to shut down by March 20, 2018 if not sooner…

“This is contrary to the whole premise of the Upper Delaware - that council is to be the clearing house [for the proper implementation of the River Management Plan]. Council has been doing its job for 30 years.

Henry stated that if the UDC were forced to shut down, it would “devastating to the history of the Upper Delaware.”  It was the council that worked hand in hand to get the National Park Service to compromise and not form a traditional park in the Upper Delaware Corridor, he noted.

Henry stated that he is “somewhat optimistic” in that the Park Service Superintendent expressed assurance that she felt the situation will be resolved. He stated that they have an excellent staff, and while it was a blow to learn that the secretary has submitted her resignation, it was also understandable given the “nonsensical budgeting crisis.”

“I’m very, very frustrated with the current funding situation and I think a resolution or intervention should have happened way before now,” Henry said.