04.07.15

SCHUMER URGES FEDS TO BE READY TO IMMEDIATELY EXPEDITE APPROVALS FOR NEW PORT JERVIS WATER PARK, WHICH COULD BRING IN OVER 500,000 TOURISTS PER YEAR & PROVIDE MAJOR BOOST TO LOCAL ECONOMY— A PROJECT WITH SUCH HUGE POTENTIAL SHOULD NOT GET STUCK IN BUREAUCRATIC RED TAPE

New Port Jervis White Water Kayak Park Will Need Approval From Fed Dept. of Fish & Wildlife, As Well as U.S. Army Corps; Without Approvals, It Is Difficult for Town To Raise $2-$4 Million in Start-Up Funds – Park Could Draw Over 500K Visitors From Around The World; Port Jervis And The Surrounding Area Would Greatly Benefit 

Schumer Says The Park Has The Potential To Bring In Upwards of $33.6 Million Annually, While Also Supporting Close to 400 Jobs; Could Help Tackle the Local 17.7% Poverty Rate – Fed Agencies Must Collaborate With Port Jervis Officials to Get Project Over The Finish Line Once Applications Are In 

Schumer To Feds: Get Port Jervis’s Plan Paddling Toward Success     

Today, at Riverside Park in Port Jervis, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer called on the federal Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to be prepared to immediately expedite approvals for a new white water park in Port Jervis that the city has been hoping to build for a number of years. The city has already submitted its application to FWS and is finalizing its application to USACE; approvals from both agencies are needed in order for the project to move forward and for the city to begin to raise the $2-$4 million needed to make the park a reality. Schumer urged both FWS and USACE to work together to get this project over the finish line and put both agencies on notice to be ready to expedite Port Jervis’s application. According to a 2012 economic impact report by the Orange County Planning Department, the new Port Jervis White Water Kayak Park has the potential to bring in over 500,000 tourists per year, which would help support approximately 400 jobs in the community. Schumer said this water park can be a much needed boost for the Port Jervis economy, and could help it cut down on its 17.7 percent poverty rate. 

“The Port Jervis White Water Kayak Park has the potential to be a game changer for the Port Jervis economy, which is why we cannot allow the necessary federal approvals to get stuck in bureaucratic red tape. Worse still is that this bureaucratic red tape could cost the City millions in private financing as investors hold out on funding until the project’s final sign-offs are signed, sealed and delivered. That is why I am calling on the federal Fish and Wildlife Service to work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to get this construction plan – which could bring hundreds of thousands of residents and visitors to the area and stimulate millions in economic revenue – approved as soon as possible,” said Senator Schumer. “I firmly believe that this kayak park has the ability to be completed in an environmentally friendly way that safeguards natural habitats on the Delaware River, while simultaneously providing a unique experience to recreational enthusiasts from around the world, who are looking to come here and invest in Port Jervis and all of Orange County.”

Schumer explained that there is currently a proposal to create the new Port Jervis White Water Kayak Park, a tourist destination that the city has been looking to construct for years. Nestled in western Orange County, Schumer said, Port Jervis is perfectly situated for economic development and outdoor recreational and tourism opportunities. Because the City of Port Jervis is located at the borders of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, the White Water Kayak Park would have the potential to be a premier destination for residents of three states to enjoy the Delaware River. According to the City, construction on the park would create a unique public recreation area within Riverside Park, a 40-acre prime waterfront site in downtown in Port Jervis. The park would serve as a premier kayak destination for thousands of Tri-State boaters, swimmers, and fishing enthusiasts, with viewing areas alongside the river for passive recreation as well. According to the City and Port Jervis Mayor Kelly Decker, this park would consist of stream side seating, picnic areas, walking trails, and deep, slow pools and eddies for increased fishing access. The City would also enhance the in-stream natural features of the river with rocks, boulders and other landscapes to create different types of scenarios for kayakers as well. Schumer said the Delaware River canyon corridor that runs through Port Jervis is a scenic-and-natural wonder that so many more people should experience, similar to the Shawangunks in Ulster County, which are a magnet for climbers worldwide. Schumer said the Delaware, too, with the help of this park has the potential to  become an internationally known “must visit” for kayak enthusiasts and their families -- a destination that enhances support for the river's natural beauty and the regional economy.

Schumer said that this project could provide numerous economic, tourism and recreational benefits for the City of Port Jervis and Orange County, in addition to enhancing the natural habitat of the river. In a 2012 economic impact report on the White Water Kayak Park, the Orange County Planning Department estimated the project has the potential to bring in as much as $33.6 million in annual revenue to the area. Schumer said the White Water Kayak Park has the potential to bring in over 500,000 tourists per year, which would help support approximately 400 jobs in the community. According to the City, this project could help the 8,828 residents of Port Jervis improve upon their 17.7 percent poverty rate and annual household income of some $36,250 per year. Currently, the poverty rate of Port Jervis remains significantly higher than that of Orange County, which has a poverty rate of 12.4%, and an annual household income significantly lower than the county average of $70,458. Schumer said this further underscores the need to bring the kinds of economic development opportunities that could transform the economy and bring visitors from multiple states to the City of Port Jervis.

In order to move forward on the White Water Kayak Park construction, Schumer said the City of Port Jervis must receive two critical federal approvals and raise $2-$4 million. However, according to the City, many private investors interested in helping finance the construction remain wary of signing on until the federal approvals are signed, sealed, and delivered. Schumer said this means much of the success of this project hinges on the City’s ability to get these approvals and sign-offs. Schumer explained that the federal Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) are the two federal agencies that need to approve permits for this project before it can move forward. And with these approvals in hand, Schumer said, securing private investment and raising funds to finance the construction could prove to be easier. To date, the city has invested $60,000 in the engineering and design of the Whitewater Kayak Park, including a $10,000 Orange County Planning Grant and $50,000 received by the Orange County Industrial Development Agency. Schumer said these funds helped get the design and planning for the project underway, but an estimated $2-$4 million will be needed for the total cost of the construction of the kayak park.

Specifically, Schumer said the USACE must approve a permit required for modifying the existing waterway at Riverside Park. In addition to this, the FWS must work with the USACE to ensure any permits issued would not harm the indigenous wildlife of the Delaware River. Therefore, Schumer is calling on these two federal agencies to work together – and in close collaboration with the city – to make sure all concerns are properly addressed, and he called on them to expedite consideration of the applications once they have been submitted. Schumer stressed the importance of ensuring this transformational project is done in an environmentally sensitive manner that safeguards natural landscapes and protected species while simultaneously providing a unique experience to kayakers and recreational enthusiasts, and he expressed his confidence that this can be achieved. In July of 2014, for example, a habitat study conducted by the City found dwarf wedge mussels, a freshwater variety listed on federal and state endangered-species lists, in the river. Based on those findings, the FWS recommended the city eliminate a portion known as the upper feature of the white water park in order to avoid harming the mussel beds. The City complied with this and, by eliminating that portion, would only reduce the quarter-mile park by 200-300 feet while simultaneously ensuring river species like these mussels are not harmed during construction.

Schumer said the willingness of the City of Port Jervis to make sure the project is beneficial economically while still environmentally sound should help make approvals happen faster. Finally, Schumer noted that the City of Port Jervis is aiming to begin construction, if it can receive the necessary approvals and investments, in August 2016. The City has indicated that the Delaware River is at its lowest during this month and it is best able to do construction at the end of the summer for this reason. Schumer noted that any further delay in federal approvals could mean a set-back in the nearly shove-ready project beyond August of next year, further putting off the economic benefits that could come to the Port Jervis area. Therefore, Schumer urged the FWS and USACE to expeditiously approve the permits and necessary plans for the White Water Kayak Park.

Schumer was joined by City of Port Jervis Mayor Kelly B. Decker; Valerie Maginsky, Executive Director of the Port Jervis Community Development Agency; and Charlene Trotter, Executive Director of the Tri-State Chamber of Commerce.

“Currently in the permitting phase, we expect the completed Port Jervis White Water Kayak Park to bring thousands of visitors seeking a variety of outdoor activities to our area and that it will be a positive economic force for our residents overall. To that end we thank Senator Schumer for taking his valuable time to visit us here in Port Jervis and for his support of our park,” said City of Port Jervis Mayor Kelly B. Decker. 

A copy of Senator Schumer’s letter to the FWS Director Daniel M. Ashe and USACE New York District Commander Colonel Paul Owen appears below:

Dear Colonel Owen and Director Ashe:

I write to urge you to be ready to expedite federal permit applications relating to the White Water Kayak Park in the City of Port Jervis. This project will allow the city to capitalize on the natural beauty and resources of the Delaware River, creating a regional attraction that will be beneficial to not only Port Jervis but also Orange County and the entire Hudson Valley. By working closely with Port Jervis to ensure timely approval of the necessary federal permits, your agencies can accelerate the creation of this unique eco-tourism destination, invigorate the local economy and offer a one-of-a-kind natural recreational destination for local residents and tourists alike.

Nestled in western Orange County, Port Jervis is perfectly situated for economic development and outdoor recreational and tourism opportunities. Located at the borders of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, Port Jervis and the White Water Kayak Park would be a premier destination to enjoy the Delaware River and everything it has to offer. According to Port Jervis, the park has the potential to bring between $10.9 and $33.6 million in annual revenue to the area, and will support approximately 400 jobs. With an estimated 500,000 visitors per year to the area, the White Water Kayak Park will provide a much-needed spark to the local and regional economy.

As you know, a U.S Army Corps of Engineers permit is necessary to modify the existing waterway and complete this project. I understand that the Army Corps has submitted a request for additional information from the City; once you receive that additional information, I urge you to expedite the permit approval process for this project, which will provide economic development and recreational benefits and enhance the natural habitat of the river. In regards to U.S. Fish and Wildlife, it is my understanding that the City has made substantial modifications to the project as result of concerns from your agency about the Dwarf Wedge Mussel and I am looking forward to working with you to help achieve FWS approval to continue the project in a manner to protect the indigenous wildlife of the Delaware River. I believe this project can be done in an environmentally sensitive manner and protect the natural landscapes and protected species while simultaneously providing a truly unique experience to kayakers and recreational enthusiasts from near and far.

I appreciated your consideration of this request.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer

United States Senator

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