Delaware River Partners OK Billion Gallon Release for Trout

WEST TRENTON, New Jersey, July 22, 2008 (ENS) – With summer temperatures soaring in the upper Delaware River basin, Pennsylvania and its neighbors – Delaware, New York, New Jersey and New York City – unanimously agreed to allow New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation to release up to a billion gallons of water under the flexible flow management plan to lower water temperatures.

The measure is designed to protect the trout in the upper reaches of the Delaware River from higher temperatures that result when water levels are low.

“It is imperative that the commission continues to work together and protect the recreational opportunities that span the length of the Delaware River, as well as the drinking water supplies that serve communities throughout the basin,” said Pennsylvania DEP Deputy Secretary Cathleen Myers Thursday, announcing Pennsylvania’s intention to sign the agreement.

“The cooperative effort was necessary to safeguard the habitat of the aquatic life in the river and to illustrate the adaptive management style incorporated in the flexible flow management plan that was adopted last year,” Myers said.

The Cannonsville Reservoir (Photo
courtesy Deposit, New York
Chamber of Commerce)

If water in the basin needs to be cooled, the New York state agency can release water from the Cannonsville Reservoir anytime between now and September 15, but not by more than one billion gallons in total.

It is anticipated that this amount of water should be enough to address the needs of the upper main stem of the Delaware River under extreme heat conditions.

Releases will occur when the three day average of forecast high temperatures in the vicinity of Hancock, New York, exceeds 90 degrees and the minimum exceeds 65 degrees.

The East and West branches of the Delaware River converge at Hancock from opposing directions to form the headwaters of the river which eventually flows to the Atlantic Ocean.

Air temperature forecasts will come from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation’s meteorological staff working in conjunction with the National Weather Service.

The new plan temporarily modifies the flexible flow management plan already in place to control reservoir releases.

Designed to accommodate suitable temperatures and habitat for trout in the west branch of the Delaware and the upper sections of the east branch and Neversink River, the existing plan will not work this year, officials say.

Because of the extremely high water temperatures that have been forecast, an augmentation of the amount of water allocated for trout was deemed necessary.

In the lower part of the basin, the Delaware River Basin Commission last week permanently designated the Lower Delaware as Significant Resource Waters under the commission’s Special Protection Waters program.

The unanimous action taken July 16 at the commission’s public business meeting establishes numeric values for existing water quality in the 76 mile long stretch of river extending from the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area downstream to the head of tide at Trenton, New Jersey.

The measure also expands coverage of the commission’s anti-degradation regulations to include the entire 197 mile non-tidal Delaware River from Hancock south to Trenton.

“This permanent designation clearly demonstrates the Delaware River Basin Commission’s long-term objective of keeping our clean water clean by ensuring that future discharges to the Lower Delaware will have no measurable change on existing high water quality,” said the commission’s Executive Director Carol Collier.

She said, “We believe this action, along with the previous Special Protection Waters designations, establishes the longest stretch of anti-degradation policy on any river in the nation.”

The Special Protection Waters program is intended to ensure that scenic, recreational, ecological, and water supply values are preserved through stricter control of wastewater discharges and reporting requirements.

The initial Special Protection Waters regulations adopted in 1992 focused on controlling point sources of pollution. In 1994, the regulations were amended to add language dealing with the complex issue of nonpoint source pollutants that are found in runoff, especially after heavy rains.

The July 16 rulemaking decision has been years in the making, beginning with the efforts leading up to President Bill Clinton signing legislation into law adding key segments of the Lower Delaware and selected tributaries to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System in November 2000.

As adopted, the rule requires new or expanding facilities to demonstrate that their discharges will not cause measurable change to existing water quality.

The Delaware River Basin Commission was formed in 1961 by compact among the four basin states and the federal government. Creation of the commission marked the first time that the federal government and a group of states joined together as equal partners in a river basin planning, development, and regulatory agency.

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