It is big news when an official directly involved in the day-to-day management of the New York City water system comes before the Upper Delaware Council. However, the appearance of Thomas Murphy turned out to be a huge disappointment.
The meeting began with a telling exchange as Murphy began talking about the management of “our water.” Town of Deerpark Representative Dave Dean corrected, “No, it’s our water,” and Murphy again emphasized, “We see it as our water.” Murphy’s posture that the water is his (NYC’s) goes to the very crux of the debate ongoing since the earliest days of the water system. The United States Supreme Court established in 1954 that the water is in essence everybody’s. All impacted users are stakeholders and have rights.
So when the city rejects a sound, science-based proposal for more water for the Delaware River, a proposal which demonstrates that the requested extra flows would in no way impact the city’s ability to meet its own protocols, it sounds awfully like the bully who says “tough, it’s our water.” This is contrary to the court’s holding that all of the system’s users have rights (and in particular, rights to an Excess Release Quantity unused by NYC).
The health of the river and the commerce we derive from river activities may be small peanuts to Mr. Murphy and NYC, but are vital to our river communities. Why Mr. Murphy would rather spill or otherwise waste excess water has no basis in any policy of the decree parties, or the Delaware River Basin Commission.
If NYC has no factual basis to deny the “fair share” request it certainly owes the decree parties (which includes New York State, i.e. us) a re-examination of the proposition. Mr. Murphy’s flat rejection, without reason or justification of any sort just doesn’t hack it. The United States Supreme Court said so almost 60 years ago, and while NYC may not want to be answerable to anyone, it is subject to the Supreme Court’s decree, like it or not.