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Remembering President Kennedy

November 22, 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Everyone old enough to remember will likely recall exactly where they were when they learned the news that our President had been shot.

This is a time to be reminded of everything that President Kennedy was able to accomplish during his brief thousand days in office -- for example, he led us safely through the tense Cuban Missile Crisis with its very real threat of nuclear war, inspired the United States to successfully send astronauts to the moon by the end of the 1960s, and established the Peace Corps. We also reflect about how our nation's history might have changed over the past 50 years had he lived.

Let us not forget that the Delaware River Basin Commission is on the list of his many accomplishments. During his first year in office, President Kennedy signed into law the Delaware River Basin Compact creating the DRBC. His Secretary of the Interior, Stewart Udall, played a critical role in the formation of the DRBC in 1961 and President Kennedy designated Secretary Udall as the first federal member on the commission. From 1961 until 1997, every President appointed the Secretary of the Interior as the DRBC's federal member until Congressional language required that the U.S. members and alternate members to the DRBC shall be officers of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The creation of the DRBC was a breakthrough in water resources management since it was the first time that the federal government and a group of states joined together to create a regional body with the force of law to oversee a unified approach to managing a river system without regard to political boundaries.

A ceremonial signing of the compact was hosted by President Kennedy at the White House on November 2, 1961. The New York Times reported the following in its November 3, 1961 article covering the event:

A statement issued by the White House press office and ascribed to the President called the signing "a significant event."

"Its significance lies in the unique character of the compact and the great hope for comprehensive plans for full and effective development of the Delaware River Valley," it said.

The statement noted that the new commission established under the compact would have jurisdiction over control and development of adequate water supplies, pollution control, flood protection, watershed management, recreation, hydro-electric power and the regulation of withdrawals and the diversion of Delaware River water.

President Kennedy designated Stewart L. Udall, Secretary of the Interior, as Federal representative on the commission.

"I know he will work with and have the counsel and cooperation of the many departments and agencies of the Federal Government concerned with water and resource development," the statement said.

The statement said that the Government was "glad to join with Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania in this bold venture."

The commission's assignment, it added, "will not be easy to achieve, but we are confident that the cooperation that has brought forth this compact will endure, and that working together real progress can be made for the people of the basin."