Upper Delaware Council gets its federal money after all

The council includes local specialists that allow community interests to be heard

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— After the U.S. Department of the Interior threatened to pull financing from the Upper Delaware Council (UDC) last November, controversy arose about the council and its role in protecting the environment.

The feds did come through on Feb. 8 with the annual $300,000 allotment, largely due to the efforts of U.S. Rep. John Faso of New York, according to the UDC website. Funds from Department of the Interior are administered through the National Park Service (NPS).

Some see the UDC as a mediator, trying to benefit and build consensus among all parties. Others see it as an unnecessary resource.

Congress passed the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in 1968, seeking to preserve in free-flowing condition selected rivers that "possess outstandingly remarkable scenic, recreational, geologic, fish and wildlife, historic, cultural, or other similar values." It also said the rivers' "immediate environments shall be protected for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations."

In 1978, Congress used the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to include the Upper Delaware River and the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area in the national park system. These areas are a partnership of private landowners and local, state, and federal governments.

The UDC was formed in 1988 to oversee the Final River Management Plan established in 1986. The plan includes land and water use guidelines for the river corridor, including the interests of town, planning, and zoning boards; code enforcers; and the federal government as represented by the NPS.

The NPS reviews local plans and ordinances relevant to the river's management. According to the River Management Plan, the river must be maintained in a free-flowing condition and managed for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations. However, some rules are open to interpretation, and according to UDC, local specialists represented by the UDC are vital for the local interests to be heard.

The local economy is heavily dependent on tourism and fishing, both of which can be threatened, or helped, by river-related activities and plans.

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