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Friday, June 12, 2009

Decree Parties Take Steps to Improve Delaware River Flow Plan

Harrisburg, PA – Modifications to the Delaware River flow plan by the parties to the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decree on the Delaware River, announced Monday by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), represent a modest step toward meeting the needs of fish and aquatic organisms within our waters, the Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) said today.

"We recognize the national importance of the Delaware River fishery and the dependence of aquatic life on releases from New York City’s Delaware River reservoirs," said PFBC Executive Director Douglas Austen. “Recent developments by the Decree parties to begin increasing seasonal releases and to eliminate harmful flow fluctuations represent positive movement toward the Commission’s goal of optimizing the fishery by better management of water for downstream uses. But this is just the beginning and a lot of work still has to be done.”

On Monday the DEP announced that Pennsylvania, New York City and other states in the Delaware River Basin, known as the decree parties, had reached two agreements regarding the flow plan that governs New York City and Delaware Basin reservoir diversions and releases under the terms of a 1954 U.S. Supreme Court Decree.

The first agreement – in effect for this summer only - attempts to improve protection of trout from the stresses of high temperatures in the West Branch of the Delaware River by marginally increasing cold water releases this summer from NYC’s Cannonsville Reservoir during the period from June 1 through August 31.

The second agreement reduces the rapid increases or decreases in the reservoir conservation release rates (known as the yo-yo effect or bouncing) by allowing New York City the flexibility to more evenly adjust releases from the reservoirs over periods of up to seven consecutive days when reservoir storage levels are rapidly fluctuating in the spring and fall. The bouncing effect is harmful to wildlife in the river habitat.

“The Commission's long term goal is to work with the decree parties and the Delaware River Basin Commission to develop water release schedules that best benefit aquatic life within the Upper Delaware System consistent with safe and sustainable mandated uses of the reservoirs,” stated Norm Gavlick, PFBC Commissioner for District 7 which covers the eight northeast Pennsylvania counties. “The schedules would attempt to meet environmental needs consistent with changes in water availability due to changes in water supply demand, precipitation and reservoir storage in the upper Delaware system.”

The Flexible Flow Management Program was originally adopted in September 2007 and amended in December 2008. The program and its associated agreements are available at http://water.usgs.gov/osw/odrm/.

The mission of the Fish and Boat Commission is to protect, conserve, and enhance the Commonwealth’s aquatic resources and provide fishing and boating opportunities. For more information about fishing and boating in Pennsylvania, please visit our website at www.fishandboat.com.