Update on the Upper Delaware

Richard Thomas

December 2008

As your NLC Delaware Workshop Chair, I thought an update was necessary especially since I have some good news to report.

Last week, the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) agreed to scrap the proposed Flexible Flow Management Program (FFMP). For those who are not familiar with this program, this was to become the guideline for managing the flows from each of the reservoirs within the Upper Delaware Region. Aside from providing the headwaters to the Delaware, making it the premier tail water fishery it is, these reservoirs contain the drinking water for much of New York City. About 494 million gallons / day are channeled daily though the landscapes of New York State ending up within the New York City water system.

One of the more significant impacts of the interim FFMP was an artificial drought condition which was created when the plan called for lower releases as we entered the month of September. Picture 1 shows the river at a healthy 1100 Cubic Feet / Second flow rate. Picture two was taken the day after the FFMP called for a lower release from the reservoir systems.

Dealaware River

Picture 1 (courtesy of Lee Hartman)
Delaware River

Picture 2 (courtesy of Lee Hartman)

Opponents of the FFMP all agreed, that the schedule of releases within the FFMP where far too little to support the overall health of the Upper Delaware Watershed. Trout Unlimited, one of these objectors, established a workshop in order to review the plan and provide a formal response. Representatives from NJ, NY and PA Trout Unlimited met on a monthly basis to prepare formal statements on where we saw the plan flawed and provide feedback to the DRBC. As a result of this continued pressure (including those who responded to our action alerts), the DRBC chose to abandon efforts with the FFMP and focus on a revised plan. Some of the specific reasons were:

  • -1,900 public comments asking for higher flows or lower reservoirs (for flood mitigation)
  • - Endangered Dwarf Wedge muscles killed by low summer flows in Lordville area with study on that species’ needs coming shortly (and needing higher flows)
  • - US Army Corps study of capacity and actual usage forthcoming tells that there is ample water to protect habitat as well as provide NYC and downstream users with water to meet their needs

As we move forward, it is the goal of the TU Delaware Conservation Workshop to work with the DRBC and provide as much data as possible in order to support and promote the health of the overall watershed. It is critical that we partner with other concerned organizations and create a working relationship with those who will create the next proposal in order to preserve the Upper Delaware Watershed and the premier trout fishery it is.