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Why we need a thermal stress protocol

July 31, 2013

Last week the Upper Delaware River experienced a dangerous thermal event. Just as heat waves are dangerous to people, they also have the potential of extreme adverse effects on the river ecosystem. This is why the proposed Lordville Thermal Stress Relief Protocol made early this year made so much sense. The protocol was designed to automatically trigger an enhanced cold-water release from the reservoirs to lessen the threat to cold-water species such as our valuable wild rainbow trout population. Sadly the Decree Parties [consisting of New York City, which obtains more than half of its water supply from three major reservoirs in the Upper Delaware River Basin, and Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Delaware] failed to adopt the protocol and determined to continue handling thermal stress events on a case-by-case basis.

As the river community identified the oncoming heat wave and reached out to those responsible for triggering cold-water releases in times of thermal stress, the process once again became a chaotic scramble. The case-by-case approach again failed and again proved to be lacking in the ability to react in a timely way. A host of concerned parties including the Upper Delaware Council, Friends of the Upper Delaware, Trout Unlimited and other allied groups and individuals provided the “squeaky wheel” to get the bureaucracy to react, and while we are most grateful that it did react, this experience again provides evidence that the case-by-case basis of handling thermal events is too complicated and ineffective. On the other hand, this thermal event proved the merits of the proposed thermal relief protocol and that its rejection was an error. We again call on the Decree Parties [who are responsible for regulating the flow rate of the Delaware River] to give serious reconsideration to the proposal.

Andy Boyar, Chapter President
Upper Delaware Trout Unlimited