NARROWSBURG – The Upper Delaware Council is appealing to the Governors of New York and Pennsylvania to fulfill the 20% state funding shares anticipated in the 1986 River Management Plan as a “last chance” to sustain the UDC as a functional organization.
UDC Solicitor Jason R. Ohliger directed letters to State of New York Governor Kathy Hochul and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro on October 5 with the unanimous approval of the Council’s voting membership.
“The UDC’s existence is a unique collaboration between the States, the Federal Government, and the municipalities of the Upper Delaware River Corridor. Through its land use reviews and educational efforts, the UDC plays an important role in conserving and protecting the 55,574.5-acre Corridor. This role is to protect both the recreational and environmental values of the River, and it allows each member municipality to provide input reflecting its goals and values,” he explains.
The Final River Management Plan for the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River: New York and Pennsylvania, which both states signed Executive Orders directing their environmental agencies to uphold, outlined a 60/20/20% cost-sharing ratio for UDC operations. It provided for a 1986 budget of $300,000 from the federal government and $100,000 from each of the two voting member states, without accounting for any inflationary adjustments.
“Annually since 1988, the United States (through the National Park Service) has allocated its $300,000 share, which is the only reason why the UDC has survived until now. It has run on austerity, and is now in a dire financial situation due to this chronic under-funding,” Ohliger writes.
Neither New York nor Pennsylvania ever contributed their shares, despite the UDC’s repeated attempts to seek relief. Ohliger concluded that the issue is properly directed to the governors due to the implied mandates of the Executive Orders, suggesting that the allocations should always have been line items in the respective environmental protection agency budgets.
“It has been determined through an independent economic analysis that, if prompt attention is not given to this matter, the UDC will be required to cease its effective operations. This outcome would implicitly violate the River Management Plan, and would put an end to this meaningful collaboration amongst our river communities.
Implementation of the River Management Plan would then default to the Secretary of the Interior, and would be out of the hands of those municipal stakeholders most intimately familiar with their communities. This outcome would violate the core purpose of this important intergovernmental partnership,” Ohliger states.
The UDC’s capacity has been necessarily reduced over the years due to the flat federal allowance and lack of state contributions. The requested funds would be used to cover the increasing costs to do business, fund important grants and educational programs, supplement available services, and foster awareness of issues that benefit the river corridor.
“If your offices do nothing in response to this appeal, then the UDC will be rendered dysfunctional after 35 years of proven success, and the municipalities would lose their collective voice and role in protecting the River Corridor,” the letter reads.
This was never the intention of the Congressional sponsors of the 1978 legislation which added the Upper Delaware River to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System in recognition of its outstandingly remarkable values.
U.S. Representatives Matt McHugh, Ben Gilman, and Joe McDade wrote to the incoming Upper Delaware Council on Jan. 11, 1988: “We urge you to take this conservation plan seriously and make the most of it. If you do, fifty years from now when the Upper Delaware is still a quality river, your children and their children will thank you for the steps you are taking today.”
Ohliger’s letter concludes, in part, “The UDC has heeded this warning and now humbly asks that the participant States do as well.”
Please visit www.upperdelawarecouncil.org to learn more about the UDC’s history and activities.