Friday, June 2, 2017

Delaware River Basin States, New York City Agree On Contingency Water Management Plan

The states of Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania and New York City late Thursday announced an agreement on a plan to continue sustainable water management for the Delaware River.
With support from the three states, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection will voluntarily release additional water from its Delaware System reservoirs to protect the ecological health of the Delaware River, maintain seasonal reservoir voids that enhance flood protection, and lessen the regional harm caused by the expiration of the Flexible Flow Management Program (FFMP).
The FFMP regulated the flow of water from New York City’s three reservoirs (Cannonsville, Neversink and Pepacton) on the headwaters of the Delaware River since it was first adopted in 2008.
The program had been extended for several years upon unanimous agreement of New York City and the states of Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, which were given that authority by a 1954 U.S. Supreme Court Decree.
However, the FFMP expired on Thursday after the State of New Jersey refused to approve an extension of the program. Without unanimous agreement, flow management on the Delaware River now reverts back to a program known as “Revision 1,” which was developed in 1983.
Under Revision 1, the amount of water released downstream from New York City’s reservoirs would be cut by more than half during most times of the year, and the seasonal 10- percent voids that bolstered flood attenuation provided by the reservoirs would be eliminated.
This significant reduction in water releases would adversely affect the wild trout fishery on the upper Delaware River, the myriad tourism businesses that make their living off the river, and riverside communities that benefit from the enhanced flood protection.
While the FFMP set exact downstream release rates for New York City’s reservoirs based on season, reservoir storage and advanced runoff forecasts, Revision 1 only outlines minimum release requirements from Cannonsville, Neversink and Pepacton reservoirs.
To reduce the negative environmental and economic effects of Revision 1, under the four-party agreement, New York City will voluntarily release quantities of water above the minimum targets beginning Thursday.
To support downstream ecology, NYCDEP will release quantities of water equal to those outlined in tables 4a through 4e of the FFMP. In most cases, these releases are several hundred cubic feet per second more than under Revision 1.
NYCDEP will also release water to meet the seasonal storage objective, a 10-percent void from October to March, that enhances the flood attenuation already provided by the reservoirs.
“While New York City is under no legal obligation to release more water than outlined in the 1983 program, we are using our authority to voluntarily release water for the benefit of downstream communities, ecological health, and to preserve years of progress on the Delaware River,” DEP Acting Commissioner Vincent Sapienza said. “The support we received from the states of Delaware, New York and Pennsylvania has been invaluable. They truly understand that the parties can and should work collaboratively to advance the interests of everyone connected to the river without needlessly moving backward.”
“The agreement we executed today preserves the important water releases provided by the FFMP to support over 35 miles of prized cold water trout streams, protecting both the natural environment and an important regional economic driver,” said New York State DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “NYCDEP’s voluntary action will also help limit peak high water levels in communities that have a long and difficult history of damaging floods.”
“The new agreement will provide additional releases that will help to maintain the water quality in the lower Delaware basin and the Delaware Bay,” said Secretary Shawn Garvin of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.
“Pennsylvania is pleased that, despite difficult negotiations, this group was able to put together a plan that prioritized the needs of the river and its communities,” said Pennsylvania DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell.
New York City has also pledged to make its operations transparent to the public as it moves ahead with the voluntary releases.
The City will make available to the Office of the Delaware River Master all the inputs and outputs to its Operations Support Tool model, which was used to determine the amount of water released under FFMP and will continue to be used for Reservoir that purpose. It will also provide updates on the status – including storage, release and drinking water diversion data – for its Delaware System reservoirs. These data will also be posted on the NYCDEP website.
Click Here to read the complete announcement.
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