The Delaware River looking upstream from Port Jervis, New York. MEG McGUIRE PHOTO
It's getting close to midnight, May 31st,
but no signs of getting closer on FFMP
By Meg McGuire | May 31, 2017
There's no movement that anyone can detect in the talks aimed at getting the Flexible Flow Management Program re-upped before the midnight May 31st deadline.
There are two vital concerns that the FFMP addresses: the trout fishing in the upper river, and flooding.
The FFMP allows for more steady releases from the New York City's three Delaware River reservoirs: Pepacton, Cannonville and Neversink.
It's those releases – cold water – that actually created the trout fishing that is now such a key part of the upper river's economic life. It's beautiful and rural in the Upper Delaware, but there aren't a lot of family-supporting jobs. Tourism is a big deal.
Flooding is a concern that some think is addressed by the amount of "void" in the reservoirs. It's hard to say just how much void would have to be kept in order for the reservoirs to absorb enough rainfall to matter for flooding downstream. It's also true that the distance is so great the weather systems don't automatically affect each other – and then there are the other rivers that empty into the Delaware. But the FFMP does allow for some void and if that goes away those who have experienced flooding in the past are understandably concerned.
It's really a three-way squabble. The chief protagonists would seem to be New York City, New York State and New Jersey. The other "decree parties" are they are called are Pennsylvania and Delaware. These are the parties who are governed by the 1954 Supreme Court decision on water allocation.
Simply put, New Jersey wants more water from the Delaware River. It says that if New York City puts ALL of its reservoirs into the big water picture, it would have plenty of water to increase New Jersey's draw.
Not only does New York not want to do that because that affects its prime mission – water for New York City – it's not what the U.S. Supreme Court decreed back when the sharing system was first set up.
All the parties have to agree to any changes to the Supreme Court decision, and the FFMP was a pretty good example of the five parties agreeing to modify the water-sharing system. It was getting a little sticky in the past couple of years with New Jersey rattling its saber, but eventually agreeing to a one-year extension.
Not this year. At least not so far. New Jersey seems to be sticking to its guns.
But there are a lots of people and organizations who want to avoid this situation. Just look at all the signers of a letter from the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed to the principals. A veritable who's who of organizations that care about the river and its people.
And for further insights into New York State's take on the situation, here's the letter that NYSDEC Commissioner Basil Seggos sent to NJ DEP Commissioner Robert Martin.
Here's Peter Kolesar's most recent letter. Kolesar was key in the development of the FFMP.
And here's the most recent note from the Friends of the Upper Delaware River.
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