FUDR’s Water, Water, Everywhere (WWE) conference last week highlighted and tied together some of the most pressing issues facing the communities and people who rely on a healthy Upper Delaware River watershed for their livelihood and way of life.
The event brought many top level decision makers from throughout the entire Delaware River basin to Hancock to discuss some of the most challenging issues facing the upper river.
WWE participants included:
- 1954 Supreme Court Decree Parties (PA, NY, NJ, DE, and NYC)
- National Park Service
- Delaware River Basin Commission
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
- Upper Delaware Council
- NYS Department of Environmental Conservation
- Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission
- Upper Delaware River Tailwater’s Coalition
- Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed
- National Wildlife Federation
- Trout Unlimited
Here are some of the key highlights of the conference:
Long term plan appears imminent for NYC Delaware River basin reservoirs
It’s an exceedingly rare occasion when all 5 of the 1954 Supreme Court Decree Party representatives appear together under one roof but it happened last week at the WWE conference. The timing couldn’t have been better as the parties work to finalize a new long term management plan for the NYC Delaware River basin reservoirs. Four of the parties (NY, NJ, DE, and NYC) have signed the new agreement and Jennifer Orr, the PA Decree Party representative, indicated that her state is very close to ratifying the new deal. The new plan includes the creation of programs that will address “yo yo” water releases and high summer water temperatures in the UDR cold water ecosystem.
National Park Service Engages in River Flow Issues
Kris Heister, Superintendent of the National Park Service-Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational Park Unit, delivered some promising news to the WWE audience. The NPS is interested in becoming more engaged in the Decree Party decision making process and is calling for a minimum flow target at Callicoon to ensure the protection of the endangered Dwarf Wedge Mussel. The National Park Service plays a critical role in water management in the upper river which includes considerable authority to ensure water quality and habitat protection and conservation.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service moving forward on Basin Wide Management Plan
Michael Slattery with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provided the audience with an update on the new federal Delaware River program (Delaware River Basin Restoration Program) and how it will benefit the economy and environmental quality of the Upper Delaware River. Madeline Urbish, Director of the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed, informed participants that the U.S. House of Representatives has passed legislation that includes $5 million for the new program and the U.S. Senate now needs to act on that appropriation.
Joint NY/PA Fishery Plan Underway
It’s been a long time since state fisheries agencies on both sides of the Upper Delaware River have dedicated meaningful resources to the cold water fishery of the upper river. In response to the effective advocacy efforts of UDR anglers and conservationists, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission are working in partnership to assess fish populations in the river. Both agencies have conducted electroshocking in the West Branch and the NYSDEC has initiated a tagging program in partnership with local anglers to gain a better understanding of fish movement throughout the cold water system. A final analysis is due in December which will set the stage for more informed discussions about the need for improved habitat and species protections for the UDR.
Stream Corridor Management Plan
The Upper Delaware River Tailwaters Coalition (UDRTC) talked about the tributary protection plan for the region below the NYC reservoirs to be completed in December 2017. The plan will help ensure that tributaries draining to the main stem are clean and cool, support healthy aquatic habitat, and mitigate the devastating impacts of flooding due to the increasing frequency and severity of storms. This plan will be used as a blueprint for the future management and protection of tributaries below the dams in the Upper Delaware River watershed.
The Importance of Coalition Building
Coalition building is one of the most important ways for Upper Delaware River advocates to increase their influence and broaden their voice in a way that makes a difference. In recent years, the Upper Delaware River region has seen a significant increase in the development and growth of coalitions that has expanded our voice from Hancock, NY all the way to Washington, D.C.
A special thanks to the West Branch Angler for hosting another successful WWE conference. WBA is a longstanding FUDR partner and a tireless advocacy voice for the river.