30th Anniversary: Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River
On November 10, 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed the legislation establishing the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River as a unit of the National Park System. Special Provisions of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act applied to the Upper Delaware and included the following requirements, all to be carried out with maximum public and intergovernmental participation:
· Establishment of a Citizens Advisory Council to encourage maximum public involvement.
· Development of a Management Plan for the Upper Delaware River that “shall provide for as broad a range of land and water uses and scenic and recreational uses as shall be compatible with protecting the ‘qualifying values’.”
· A program for providing coordinated implementation and administration of the Management Plan.
Passage of the Upper Delaware Legislation brought more controversy. In 1981, the Conference of Upper Delaware Townships (COUP) formed to provide a forum for local response to the planning effort.
After two drafts of a river management plan were rejected by the public, the National Park Service entered into a cooperative agreement with COUP in May of 1984 to write a more acceptable version.
For the next year and a half, more than 100 individuals representing local governments and interest groups pitched in during often contentious meetings to shape the plan. The River Management Plan was released for public review in January 1986 and adopted by COUP in November of that year. Approval by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior followed in October 1987. After Congressional review, the plan became effective on January 4, 1988.
The final River Management Plan for the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River completely reversed the traditional concept of federal land ownership in virtually all units of the National Park Service and Wild and Scenic River System.
In the Upper Delaware, approximately 95 percent of the land is privately owned. The legislation limits the National Park Service to managing its facilities, enforcing laws pertaining to the river’s surface and assisting local governments with resource protection. Land acquisition by the NPS, on a willing seller basis only, is specifically restricted to 124 acres out of the 55,575 acres in the river corridor.
20th Anniversary: The Upper Delaware Council
A proposal to create an Upper Delaware Council (UDC) as an alternative to sole federal management of the river corridor was the paramount recommendation of the River Management Plan.
The UDC evolved from a nucleus of concerned river valley residents and the many grassroots organizations which formed in response to federal overtures made in the 1960s to stake a presence in the Upper Delaware region.
Rooted in the desire to retain local control over the Upper Delaware River Valley's land use while securing federal protection for the treasured New York-Pennsylvania border river, the UDC was incorporated as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization on Feb. 18, 1988 and held its first official meeting on Feb. 22, 1988.
Eligible for membership were the eight New York towns and seven Pennsylvania townships bordering the river; the State of New York; the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; the Delaware River Basin Commission; and the Upper Delaware Citizens Advisory Council. The UDC’s governmental members would use their existing authorities to cooperatively implement the Plan’s goals, aimed at protecting the river through ongoing reviews and recommendations pertaining to any relevant actions, developments, ordinances or laws in the corridor.
Members appoint representatives to serve on the UDC board. The full Council and three standing committees – Operations, Project Review, and Water Use/Resource Management – each meet monthly at the UDC’s Narrowsburg office. The UDC also administers an annual Technical Assistance Grants Program.
The UDC’s role in overseeing the various entities tasked with implementation of the River Management Plan’s goals and objectives represents a working partnership that has been nationally recognized and emulated.
Prepared to act as advocate, critic or facilitator, the UDC continuously monitors proposed legislation, new developments, studies, and governmental policies to assess potential impacts on the Upper Delaware’s resources, to protect private property rights, and to uphold the far-sighted vision of the River Management Plan to work with the National Park Service to protect and conserve the area for present and future generations.