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Now Or Never For Rivers and Fish, Says River Advocacy Group

Posted on September 18 2008

The Delaware River Basin Commission will be letting the general public know on September 24th, 2008 whether the current Flexible Flow Management Program (ffmp) will be voted in or voted out. “The ffmp has been nothing short of a disaster this summer” said Dan Plummer Chairman of the Board of Friends of the Upper Delaware River “and everyone now knows it.” The plan concerns cold-water releases from NYC owned Catskill reservoirs into the river system. Trout thrive in cool water. But they are imperiled when air temperatures get hot, as they did this summer, and river managers fail to release sufficient cold water from the reservoirs to ensure survival of the valuable fish.

Now there is a new problem and things are even worse. Under the current plan on Sept.5th, the Cannonsville Reservoir went from releasing 900 cubic feet per second (cfs) from the bottom of the dam to a 100 cfs release. That translates into certain death for many of the river’s inhabitants. Not only have the trout been threatened by high water temperatures they now face major loss of habitat with the lesser releases. Plummer claims that incredible amounts of insects have already died, the endangered dwarf wedge mussel that lives in the main stem of the river is threatened, and immeasurable amount of habitat has been lost. “You can’t just shut the water off and think nothing will be affected. To the best of my knowledge there has not been an environmental impact study done to see just how devastating this plan is to wildlife, not to mention the potential for more flooding.” On October 8th the water will be choked down even more with only 80 cfs being released from the Cannonsville Dam, “this is absolutely unacceptable and totally unnecessary considering the high water levels currently being held behind the dams in the reservoirs,” says Plummer.

Trout and other fish and wildlife in the river are squeezed into a much smaller area now that the water is gone and there is not enough food, cover or thermal refuge to go around something has to give and Plummer hopes it will be the Flexible Flow Management Program. “We are encouraging everyone that has a phone, computer or pencil and paper to contact their governor and their governors environmental aides to stop the current Flexible Flow Management Plan in it’s tracks and to attend the DRBC’s public hearing on Sept. 24th in Trenton to make a stand. If we don’t stop the current release program here the next step will have to be legal action.”

According to FUDR attorney Jeff Zimmerman, “for the Water Code to be changed there must be unanimous approval by all the decree parties,” which includes New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and New York City, as well as a majority vote by the five members of the Delaware River Basin Compact, the four states plus the federal government.

Plummer added that “Under the current restrictions of the river release plan New York Department of Environmental Conservation officials have for the first time admitted they have written off the main stem of the Delaware River from Hancock, N.Y. downstream”.

Incredibly, the Delaware River Basin Commission made shameless claims celebrating its “flexibility” in implementing the sham plan, said Plummer. FUDR said duplicitous comments about the plan were made by Pennsylvania DRBC representative Cathleen Myers and DRBC’s Carol Collier—comments the organization said exhibited “cynical disregard for the public’s intelligence.”

New York City and the DRBC have gutted the Supreme Court’s original framework of the river flow management plan and left it ineffectual in terms of habitat, flood mitigation, the fishery and recreational use, said Plummer. Overwhelming evidence is mounting that more than enough water exists and is being wasted in unnecessary storage and spillage. The public should demand that this shameful posturing stop, Plummer said, adding that FUDR hopes leadership change within the DRBC would result in a more responsible approach and significant overhaul of the water plan.

The Pennsylvania Council of Trout Unlimited, Aquatic Conservation Unlimited, North Delaware River Watershed Conservancy and other conservation groups join FUDR in its criticism of the plan. All agree a change must happen now.


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