By Dan Hust
NARROWSBURG With some minor changes, the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway (UDSB) Board on Monday unanimously approved a resolution calling for a ban on all “non-traditional” heavy industrial truck traffic on Route 97.
Nonvoting board member Glenn Pontier, the Sullivan Renaissance program director who drafted the resolution, asked his colleagues to agree to include “agriculture” in the language that allows lumber, bluestone and canoe transport trucks to continue using 97.
Board Chair and Lumberland Supervisor Nadia Rajsz added that contractors sometimes use heavy trucks on 97, and she didn’t want to see them impacted.
Thus the language of the resolution was further amended to indicate that the specific exemptions for ag, bluestone, lumber and canoe vehicles were not exclusive to them.
In other words, the UDSB continues to support “traditional forms of truck usage on NYS Route 97,” according to the resolution.
The resolution was prompted by concerns over the potential impact of heavy truck traffic generated by gas drilling, though it isn’t targeted solely at drilling but at “all non-traditional forms of heavy industrial and mining uses ... that will detract from the inherent scenic qualities that were the basis for the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway’s designation.”
Pontier admitted, however, that the resolution does not have the force of law.
“We’re an advisory board,” he acknowledged to his colleagues at Monday’s board meeting. “We can say whatever we want ... but we have no power.”
Instead, the UDSB will now ask all local, state and federal agencies with jurisdiction over 97 including the state Dept. of Transportation to ban “all large trucks and vehicles involved in new forms of heavy industrial use and mining” from the road’s entire 70 miles along the Delaware River.
Whether the DOT in particular will take any action remains uncertain, with state officials not returning a call at press time.
Pontier referenced the commercial truck ban on U.S. Route 209 in the Delaware Water Gap Recreation Area and on the Garden State Parkway as prior instances of such regulation.
“As soon as it gets ‘too much’ of something,” he argued, “it will lose its value.”
He added, however, that “this is not taking a stand on fracking or gas drilling,” pointing out that the parallel Norfolk-Southern railroad tracks could handle the heavy loads drillers and others want to haul (though Cochecton resident and railroad neighbor Claudine Luchsinger told the board she thought listing that option was unnecessary).
Board member and County Planning Commissioner Luiz Aragon pointed out, too, that the truck ban might remain on paper only.
“If it [truck traffic] becomes an issue, then you have the option to enforce it,” he explained.
Pontier urged the UDSB to request letters of support from local towns to be sent to the state and federal agencies overseeing 97 and the Delaware River valley.
“There are many ways we can take our destiny back,” he remarked, “and I think we should.”