Delaware River Flow Update: Good, Bad and Confusing (updated 10/2/17)

Update 10/2/17: Here's the link from the DRBC web site that has the slides for the presentation of the new draft water regulation rules:…/FFMP_PerformanceReport_Shallcross.…

For the handful of readers who know and/or care about the new improved Flexible Flow Management Plan for the Delaware River, there's good news and confusing news and some bad news

(For the readers who have no idea what I'm talking about, we'll get into that in a future story.)

I wanted to send a short note about today's meeting of the Regulated Flow Advisory Committee, a subcommittee of the Delaware River Basin Commission. Oh Lord, this is always so confusing.

The good news is that the decree parties (New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and New York City) are not just talking, they are close to an agreement. The agreement -- at least as was shared today -- seems to address many of the issues that have bedeviled the Upper Delaware's water-management system.

The confusing news is that the presentations today of what the draft proposals are were so detailed I haven't yet really figured out what they mean.

So this is a note to say "Progress is being made."

Unfortunately one serious obstacle remains, and this needs some back story.

How and how much cold water the New York City reservoirs release into the Upper Delaware allows the trout (and bugs and insects) to thrive, or not. A good supply of water also means that the livery companies can do business.

Back in the spring, the agreed-upon formulae (very complicated) were thrown out because New Jersey didn't agree to some of the specifics.

When those updated-every-year formulae are thrown out, there's an automatic reversal to a much more abstemious water release called Rev 1.

The trout community and in fact the whole tourist industry in the Upper Delaware were very concerned. When there's little or no river to fish, or boat on, the tourists don't come.

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection did voluntary releases to ameliorate the situation all summer.

Until now.

The NYCDEP plans to stop its voluntary releases as of Oct. 10. That would be awful for the businesses of the Upper Delaware as was made clear by many of the speakers that addressed the committee.

Committee members said the agreement was very close, but the voluntary releases are going to be cut off if the new agreement isn't signed.

So, we wait and see.

The Delaware River Basin Commission was trying to figure out if the slides that outlined the proposed new agreement could be released, so check on its website to see if they are.

With any luck I'll be able to make more sense of the draft soon and will write more when I understand it better.

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.

Leave a Comment