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December 09, 2016
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Spokesman: city not solely responsible for the upper river’s health

Thomas Murphy Jr. listens to a question from Andy Boyar, supervisor of the Town of Highland.

Hancock representative Fred Peckham asked about flood control. He noted that the difference in discharge amounts during a flood greatly impacts flood damage. “A 10-foot difference in the level can make a $100 million difference in damages.” The 10% void that the most recent flow management regime aims for during certain times of the year has been a helpful buffer during storms in this respect. However, Murphy noted that though the reservoirs can help in a single storm, in back-to-back storms, “it’s really hard to deal with two.”

At the other end of the spectrum, in drought situations an increase in directed releases may be required in order to meet the Montague flow target. But no set flow target exists above Montague, and if high flows from the Lackawaxen and Neversink rivers are meeting the Montague requirement, Delaware levels upstream of Lackawaxen can drop precipitously because NYC reservoir releases aren’t being made.

Noting that withheld NYC releases can leave the upper river nearly dry, Peckham objected.

Murphy confirmed that the city did not have to release water in such instances. Changes to this policy require unanimous agreement of the decree parties, he added.

The recent rejection of a proposal by Peter Kolesar and Jim Serio to manage thermal stress on the upper river, supported by the UDC, was a hot topic for public comment. When the river runs low and accordingly warmer, Bart Larmouth of the Upper Delaware Club said he fields 100 phone calls daily from angry anglers and non-anglers alike.

Highland Supervisor and Trout Unlimited chapter President Andrew Boyar noted that no reasons had been given for the rejection of the proposal, which had been based on scientific algorithms. When Murphy claimed that procedures were already in place to deal with thermal stress episodes, Boyar said, “Even when there is plenty of water, we have to pound on doors to get any response.” Last year, out of four requests by the PA Fish and Boat Commission for thermal relief, only one received a response.

Sherri Resti of Friends of the Upper Delaware River pointed out that the entire recreation industry is impacted. “It’s not just fisheries, people are hiking, camping and spending money here.”

While he said that NYC has participated in special programs outside the formal agreement, Murphy said, “the city has never thought there is enough water to thermally maintain the main stem. We’ve made that clear more than once.”

Tusten’s Susan Sullivan looked for a straight answer. “Then you’re not responsible for the health of the main stem?”