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Unsettled Business on the Delaware River

Posted on June 08 2017

On May 31, 2017 the Flexible Flow Management Program (FFMP) expired and an archaic and woefully inadequate plan from the 1980’s called “Revision 1” is now governing the operations of the NYC Delaware River basin reservoirs.

That outcome was a direct result of the Decree Parties (NY, PA, NJ, DE, and NYC) failure to negotiate in good faith and reach unanimous agreement on a long term plan that meets the water resource needs of Delaware River watershed stakeholders.

Just hours after Revision 1 took effect, New York City, New York State, Pennsylvania, and Delaware agreed on a 4-party contingency plan to voluntarily release water from the reservoirs at levels higher than the dangerously low levels called for in Revision 1. This is a direct benefit to the Upper Delaware River which suffers more than any other section of the Delaware watershed under Revision 1.

The 4 parties appear to be committed to the contingency plan indefinitely in the absence of a 5-party agreement. New York City and the 3 states deserve some credit for this stop gap action as the upper river will need all the help it can get under Revision 1.

Since the expiration of the FFMP, New Jersey appears to be intentionally silent, and presumably, continues to take the position they articulated in their February 16, 2017 letter (click here to read NJ letter) to the DRBC Regulated Flow Advisory Committee. That position, among other things, calls for more long term certainty for their Delaware River water diversions and correcting calculations that determine water availability in the Delaware River system for multiple downstream purposes.

Recent heavy rains and cool air temperatures in the Upper Delaware River region have temporarily masked the impacts of Revision 1 and kept river flows and water temperatures at safe levels. This will likely change in the coming weeks as the summer months approach. The 4-party contingency plan will help but it may not be enough, especially if summer air temperatures are higher than normal.

The impasse in negotiations, and the rigidly parochial claims to Delaware River water by the Decree Parties, has become a public policy nightmare and a national embarrassment. Other areas of the country, with far less water to work with than the Delaware basin provides, have successfully implemented water sharing programs that are effective and reasonably meet the needs of all stakeholders.

The ongoing failure to develop a long term water management plan that meets everybody’s needs is a disruptive and unnecessary backdrop to the fledgling Delaware River Basin Restoration Program at the federal level which holds such promise for the long term restoration and protection of the entire watershed.


For Upper Delaware River advocates, our message hasn’t changed.

Call or email the Decree Parties and tell them to leave their egos at the door, get back to the negotiating table, and develop a long term plan that places the needs of people, communities, and the ecological integrity of the Delaware River at the forefront.

Here’s the contact information for the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court Decree Party Principals/Designees :

Paul Rush (NYC):, 845-334-7107

Mark Klotz (NY):, 518-402-8233

Kelly Heffner (PA):, 717-783-2300

Dan Kennedy (NJ):, 609-292-4543

David Wunsch (DE):, 302-831-8258

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