Veering Off the Byway
The Upper Delaware Scenic Byway organization (UDSB), which encompasses parts of Route 97 in Delaware and Sullivan Counties, New York recently passed a resolution suggesting the State ban heavy truck traffic on the byway! It is a short sighted and poorly written document aimed directly at the natural gas industry, with little thought as to the safety and economic effects it would have to the people and towns whose path lies within its boundaries.
The resolution put forward by the UDSB ignores the true dangers imposed by this resolution on the populace of the region. NYS Route 97 is the main artery in the region for all industries, not just those classified as traditional uses by the committee. It’s a blatant attempt at banning natural gas development. As such it, recommends restrictions on not only a state highway but also on landowners’ rights to develop their resources along this state highway. The resolution creates a situation where companies would be forced to use county and town roads to avoid the UDSB. This would create far more safety problems then it cures for those who use these narrow and winding local roads.
The resolution also suggests use of the railroad as an alternative. I like the railroad but, REALLY, how far does anyone think that will go with the environmental extremist in the area, since the railroad runs along the river and they are so adamant about protecting the river from imagined threats. Moreover, how does one get the product from the railroad, which borders Route 97, to well pads, which will almost certainly be great distances from the river? Obviously, it’s impossible without using Route 97 and trucks. So, what are we trying to accomplish here? This idea is a non-starter.
When you try to restrict one type of industry and exempt traditional uses without defining them you are creating a legal quagmire and doing exactly what the original proponents of the UDSB said would never happen – removing truck traffic from Route 97 because of its designation. There are no scenic byways in New York with heavy truck restrictions or any such restrictions for that matter. If you restrict one type of truck you will have to restrict all trucks. This resolution zeros in on prohibiting one particular industry from using a state highway because some members of the UDSB committee apparently decided this action fit with their “kill the drill” agenda.
In their rush to pass a resolution they say is for safety and the preservation of the scenic values of the region, the UDSB has reduced landowner rights to little more then being able to enjoy the view, while also endangering the safety of those who travel the region. They are pursuing a BANANA (“Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything”) agenda, to say nothing of holding the people of the region economically hostage with seasonal, low paying tourism related wages. Anyone wondering why Sullivan County is in the financial shape it’s in one only need look at this short sighted resolution put out by the UDSB.
Several towns along the byway, including my own, have resisted joining the UDBS because of the fear that this may turn into a campaign against all industrial development and an infringement on landowners’ ability to conduct logging, quarrying and other indigenous land uses along the by-way. This is the first step in restricting land use through the back door. It looks like some of the towns made the right decision by not joining this ill conceived venture.