No news is not always good news

THE FOUR STATES — and New York City — with interest in the the Delaware River have not yet come to any agreement about changes to how those waters are apportioned. New Jersey wants more water, especially during droughts. In order for it to get more, more water has to be released from the three New York City reservoirs that feed into the Delaware. And even if New York City were to agree, a change would still need the other states' approval.

That's a fundamental change — and New Jersey isn't interested in making smaller adjustments to suit various problems (flood mitigation, improving fishery habitats) until there's a major overhaul.

That's not what a crowd of about a hundred wanted to hear at the Regulated Flow Advisory Committee meeting (one of the advisory committees of the Delaware River Basin Commission) held on Tuesday.

Many of the people who spoke at the meeting complimented both the committee and the DRBC for holding the meeting in Hawley, Pa. rather than the usual meeting place in Trenton N.J., therefore making it easier for people from the Upper Delaware to come.

And in a departure from usual practice, four of the five decree party principals (the four states and New York City) were also on hand to hear from concerned citizens: Pennsylvania's Kelly Heffner, New Jersey's Dan Kennedy, Delaware's David Wunsch, New York City's City's Paul Rush. New York state's representative wasn't able to make it.

In their presentations, the speakers asked for small modifications to present practice. Some spoke about keeping space in the reservoirs to allow the reservoirs to hold water during repeated heavy rains. Diane Tharp, executive director of the North Delaware River Watershed Conservancy, said that If that practice were in place some of the devastation suffered from the floods of 2004, 2005, and 2006 could have been prevented. Dr. Gregory Stokes, mayor of Riegelsville, Pa., said he understood about the need to keep a balance in the Delaware between flood and drought, but his town has suffered from flooding and it hurts the community for years to come.

Many spoke about the need to protect the cold-water fishing that could thrive with steady, predictable cold-water releases from the reservoirs. Those same releases would benefit the various canoe and kayak services in the river. And those improvements could boost tourism and therefore boost local economies.

"You have the ability to kill this industry (river-based businesses) or make it better," said David Jones, co-owner of Kittatinny Canoes based in the Upper Delaware.

None of that will happen, at least not yet.

There is a one bit of, well, not bad news: The current system of regulating the flow, called the Flexible Flow Management Plan, will once again be renewed by May 31st, according to the Delaware River Master George Mason, who said that the decree parties (New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and New York City) are close to an agreement to re-up the FFMP and continue it as is.

About Meg McGuire

Meg McGuire has been a journalist for 30 years in New York and Connecticut. She started in weekly newspapers and moved to full-time work in dailies 25 years ago. She knows about the tectonic changes in journalism firsthand, having been part of what was euphemistically called a "reduction in force" six years ago. Now she's working to find new ways to "do" the news as an independent online publisher of news about the Delaware River, its watershed and its people.

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