Construction on a transmission corridor across the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area in New Jersey and Pennsylvania is getting under way, and that could temporarily limit some access to the NRA through next spring.
NRA Superintendent John J. Donahue says some areas will be off-limits during construction of the Susquehanna to Roseland Transmission Line project into April to protect visitors.
“These temporary restrictions are intended to protect the public, employees and construction workers from safety hazards associated with large scale construction activities,” said Superintendent Donahue. “Safety is a top priority for the NPS, the utility companies, and contractors working on this project in the park. We are all working together to ensure that disruptions to the public are minimized to the greatest extent possible.”
Two utility companies- PSE&G in New Jersey and PPL in Pennsylvania- are upgrading an existing transmission line and associated structures within their Right of Way (ROW) in Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. The portion of the ROW that passes through the park is approximately five miles long and 150 feet wide. The ROW runs west to east from Bushkill, Pennsylvania, across the Middle Delaware Scenic and Recreational River to Hardwick Township, New Jersey, where it crosses the Pioneer and Hamilton Ridge Trails, Old Mine Road, Route 602 (Millbrook-Blairstown Road) and the Appalachian National Scenic Trail before cresting Kittatinny Ridge.
Over the course of several days early this month, the utilities will remove the existing transmission lines and the associated structures along the ROW. New structures will be erected during the winter months and the new transmission lines will tentatively be installed over the course of several days in February 2014.
During these periods, some park sites and facilities will be temporarily closed, or access may be limited to eliminate or reduce hazards associated with moving overhead wires and the use of heavy construction equipment, including cranes, large trucks and helicopters.
The size and scope of this project and the commensurate risks to the public, employees, and contractors during these phases of construction make it necessary to institute these temporary closures during wire removal and installation. Areas that will be temporarily closed for a few days in November, and again in February include:
* The Delaware River corridor between Smithfield Beach and Bushkill Access
* River access points at Bushkill and Smithfield Beach in Pennsylvania and Poxono in New Jersey
* The McDade Recreational Trail between Smithfield Beach and Bushkill Access.
Removal of the existing wires and structures is scheduled to begin Monday, barring any unforeseen circumstances or delays due to weather. In many cases, facility closures will only last for a few hours on a given day, but in some cases, it may be necessary to close an area for longer periods, park officials said.
More information on the transmission line project, including maps, construction schedules and restriction or closure notices, can be found on the park’s website.
Current information on closures will also be posted on the park’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/DelWaterGapNPS and on Twitter at DelWaterGapNPS. Signs will also be posted at these locations to notify the public.
In addition, hunting is temporarily prohibited along the utilities’ access road off Community Drive in Middle Smithfield Township, Pennsylvania, and within 450 feet in both directions from the centerline of the ROW creating a 900-foot wide, approximately 5-mile long area that is closed to all hunting through April 1, 2014. Hunters may not possess any means of taking game animals identified by the states of New Jersey or Pennsylvania while walking through or across the designated no hunting zone.
Construction is scheduled to continue through the winter months, weather permitting, however no other restrictions on recreational activities are anticipated at this time. The utility companies will have safety monitors placed in areas where the ROW crosses trails such as the McDade Recreational Trail and the Appalachian National Scenic Trail so that the public can cross through those areas quickly and safely during most of the construction activities.
No road closures are planned at this time but there may be occasional delays as critical activities are completed. Visitors are asked to be alert for hazards and increased construction vehicle traffic when using these areas.