Should nearby tributaries of the Delaware River be protected by the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act? A Knowlton-based group thinks so and is gauging local support for the legislation.
Tara Mezzanotte of the Lower Delaware Wild and Scenic Rivers Partnership has been visiting local municipalities that have rivers and streams that could be included in the program.
Mezzanotte explained the goals of the group at the August 24 meeting of the Knowlton Township Committee. The Delaware River is already designated a wild and scenic river, she said. If local resident and governing bodies agree, tributaries such as the Paulinskill, Stony Brook and the Pequest River could be added to that list.
“I’m here to ask for support,” Mezzanotte said, emphasizing that if local governments don’t get on board, the process would come to a halt.
Mezzanotte also stressed that the tributaries being designated as wild and scenic rivers would not impede local residents and adjacent property owners, saying the waterways would not come under any additional federal land use rules.
“Laws protecting private property are maintained,” she said. “There is no federal taking.”
The properties would continue be subject to existing local zoning laws, Mezzanotte added. There has been resistance to the proposal in other communities as well as support, Mezzanotte said.
“Some people did not want to sign on because of fears of federal government overreach,” she said.
The Tocks Island “disaster,” as Mezzanotte described it, left a bitter taste with many longtime residents. As far back as the 1950s and decades afterward, a proposal to build a dam across the Delaware River just north of the Water Gap had taunted residents.
The dam was still technically under consideration as late as 2002, when the federal government permanently scuttled the project. The land that had been purchased for the dam and resulting lake was designated as the Delaware National Recreation Area in 1965, and that designation has survived the cancellation of the project.
Many local residents continued to be wary of government overreach, but Mezzanotte said that after 20 years, “None of those fears have come to fruition.”
Among the benefits of the designation include additional resources for protection of the waterways, under the jurisdiction and management of local officials, Mezzanotte said. It also opens the door to technical and financial support from the National Park Service, which would be under the direction of the towns, she added.
Several Township Committee members expressed interest in the proposal, and Mezzanotte said she would produce a sample resolution the committee could review at a future meeting.
Joe Phalon, Contributing Writer
Joe was lured out of retirement by the opportunity to be a part of the Ridge View Echo. During a decades-long career in publishing and journalism, he has covered government on many levels from local school boards to the United States Supreme Court.
Along the way, Joe has worked at American Lawyer Magazine, The National Law Journal and The Record among other publications, and as the Press Officer of Columbia Law School. His work has been recognized with several first place awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the New Jersey Press Association.
Being part of the Ridge View Echo brings Joe back to his roots and the kind of news coverage he loves: Telling the stories of people and local communities as well as keeping an eye on how their money is spent by their government officials.
Joe lives in Blairstown with his wife Rose, the founder of Quilting for a Cause, and their two wiener dogs. He is an artist in his spare time.