The unparalleled in-the-East wild rainbow and brown trout fishery in the scenic upper reaches of the Delaware River are threatened. The latest round of negotiations for a new Cannonsville flow release agreement between New York State Department of Conservation and New York City Department of Protection has been stalled yet again. After three postponed agreement deadlines, another date is set Sept. 30th, 2003 to present their proposal to the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC).
Because of the delay the DRBC passed a resolution on March 17th, 2003 to extend Docket D-77-20 CP (revision 5) (Amended) for one year to continue experimental augmented conservation release program for the New York City Delaware Basin Reservoirs. This resolution calls for a 20% reduction of the habitat bank this year. The habitat bank serves to protect the minimum flow requirements for the Upper Delaware River.
This comes on the heels of a Pennsylvania Power and Light Corporation (PPL) application to Federal Environmental Regulatory Commission for their 35/50 year re-license for their operation on Lake Wallenpaupack. The PPL proposal continues to haunt us. It includes raising the water level in Lake Wallenpaupack by one foot by August 1st of each year to increase capacity to 3.2 billion gallons of water. This additional water will allow PPL to release heavy volumes of water into the Lackawaxen River during the most critical periods. If PPL’s re-license application is approved as worded, "Lake Wallenpaupack OPERATIONAL discharges into the Delaware River will be "credited" (counted) toward the mandated flow target at Montague, NJ; similarly, that same amount of water will be credited to New York City’s reduction in releases for the same time period. This means that New York City will save all water gained from PPL’s summer releases and that the West Branch of the Delaware will be minus Cannonsville releases.
Why are they doing this? It is New York City’s solution not to repeat 2001 when they released 180 billion gallons of water from Cannonsville that lowered its capacity to less than 4%, nearly killing the entire west branch. Instead of fixing their aqueducts where millions of gallons of water is lost each year the City wants to turn down the Cannonsville faucet and threaten the entire habitat in the Upper Delaware each and every summer whether there is a drought or not.
The 1954 United States Supreme Court Decree mandated NYC to maintain 1750 cfs at the Montague, NJ gauging station. During the last 22 years, NYC's reservoir of choice to satisfy the 1954 court decree has been Cannonsville. These high volumes releases protected the trout fishery during summer months as far down as Callicoon, NY. This section of the river includes the "Wild & Scenic" corridor where most of the spawning rainbow tributaries are located.
The Cannonsville Reservoir’s mandated releases and a series of fisheries flow release plan for the Upper Delaware, though never permanent, created one of the best wild trout fisheries in the country. Visitors came and the fishing and recreation industry along the river blossomed into a ,000,000.00 a year economy for the local region. (Based on 1996 economic study) We cannot allow irresponsible management of Delaware flow regimes harm this most precious resource.
The Delaware River Committee has an active coalition of equally concerned organizations that meet at regular intervals. The Committee seeks support from national and state agencies, environmental groups and individuals to help us sustain the cold-water flows of the Delaware River. Those who live in New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey should write to their appropriate state, city and federal authorities and ask for a permanent fisheries agreement that will sustain the flows we so enjoyed over the last two decades.
Our next meeting is April 10th in Wilkes Barre, PA. Please call us if you or your organization wishes to join our efforts to maintain Delaware's flows. NOW IS THE TIME TO ACT before we lose the protective flows that keep the Upper Delaware our most prized wild trout river in the east.
Please send your letters to the following:
Chief Bureau of
Watershed Conservation - PA DEP
PO Box 8555
Harrisburg, PA 17105
Executive Director, PA Fish Commission
1601 Elmerton Avenue PO Box 67000
Harrisburg, PA 17106-7000
PO Box 736025
State Police Drive West
Trenton, NJ 08628-0360
Magalie Roman Salas, Secretary
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
888 First Street, N.E. Room 1A
Washington, DC 20426
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