Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Remembering Eddie & Preserving The Poconos' Last Great Natural Resource

 As befits a Libra, Eddie Joubert believed that being in balance with the people and other creatures around him was important.  This remarkable man may not have been a water sign, but he was entranced by the idea that Pocono waterways -- from the smallest rivulet to streams like Cherry Creek, which ran right behind his bar in Delaware Water Gap -- flowed into larger and larger waterways and eventually into the Lenape, the Minsi Indian name for the Delaware River and the one he preferred to use.
It was the water, as well as the verdant forests, rolling hills, old-soul mountains and tales of Native American burial grounds, that had drawn Eddie to the Poconos from the mean streets of North Jersey, where he grew up and had been a Teamsters Union organizer.  The Poconos is where he wanted his children to live, and he devoted the rest of his days to trying to give them a good life, as well as supporting environmental causes and helping wake tiny Delaware Water Gap from its long slumber.   
I have Eddie to thank for my own interest in Poconos water issues as a longtime visitor, more recent resident and career investigative journalist.  Water is the last substantially undisturbed natural resource in the region. But as Eddie understood and did not hesitate to tell others, it was being misused and abused. 
Thirty-five years after Eddie's death, there is a growing awareness that the supply of water is finite and will dry up if not carefully managed and protected against the rapacious encroachment of profit-hungry corporations like Nestlé, which already has sucked millions of gallons of water out of the Poconos and neighboring counties at enormous profit and plans to help itself to many millions more.   The big business-friendly Poconos political establishment views this looming crisis with a practiced yawn, while the few organizations like the Brodhead Watershed Association who do care are chronically underfunded and have limited clout.
 While Eddie would have been admiring of the work of organizations like the Brodhead Watershed Association, he was a coalition builder and would have been bemused, as well as saddened, by the reality that environmental groups in the Poconos have turned the acronym NIMBY, an anti-development pejorative for Not In My Back Yard, into OIMBY, or Only In My Back Yard. 
When the Sierra Club and other environmental organizations formed a coalition to file suit against the National Park Service for caving into fossil fuel interests who were determined to build 197-foot-tall high-voltage electric transmission towers across the northern Poconos, Delaware River and through the heart of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, a dozen New Jersey environmental groups quickly joined the fight.  But similar groups in the Poconos were unmoved by this environmental outrage, which was akin to running a razor blade across the face of a beautiful woman.   
Similarly, the citizens of tiny Eldred Township in the western Poconos have had to go it alone in their fight against the plans of multi-national giant Nestlé to withdraw many millions of gallons of water from their aquifer for their Deer Park Spring Water brand at enormous profit. 
Despite stories in the national and international media and on environmental, clean water and health websites, environmental groups in the eastern Poconos again have been unmoved.  When I pointed this out to Edie Stevens, the highly-regard environmentalist who heads the Brodhead Watershed Association, she haughtily replied, "Eldred Township and the water withdrawal location are not in the Brodhead watershed.  The BWA limits all it's volunteer activities to issues within the Brodhead watershed."   
So there!
My previous articles on Poconos water- and environmental-related issues include several on the ongoing battle between Eldred and Nestlé, one on decades-long efforts to dam the middle Delaware River as it flows past the Poconos, and on a U.S. Supreme Court case on whether construction of a multi-billion dollar liquified natural gas terminal on the lower Delaware could be blocked.  (It could.  And was.)  Meanwhile, here's a report by global news network Al Jazeera on the Kunkletown water war. 
I also have written The Bottom of The Fox: A True Story of Love, Devotion & Cold-Blooded Murder, a book about Eddie Joubert's life, legacy and tragic death. 

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