UPPER DELAWARE REGION — The Delaware Aqueduct carries 600 million gallons of water daily from the Delaware River to New York City. It was originally scheduled to close this fall for repairs, a …
UPPER DELAWARE REGION — The Delaware Aqueduct carries 600 million gallons of water daily from the Delaware River to New York City. It was originally scheduled to close this fall for repairs, a closure that could have impacted flood chances along the Upper Delaware and that drew the attention of area residents and activists alike.
That shutdown has now been postponed, and is currently anticipated to take place from October 1, 2023 to May 31, 2024. New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) controls the aqueduct shutdown and its timing. The DEP has also overseen a portfolio of infrastructure projects and planning taking place since 1990; those projects are aimed at ensuring that New York City has enough drinking water for the duration of the shutdown—the city gets around half its daily total from the Delaware Aqueduct.
Several of these projects couldn’t be completed, tested and provided with fully trained staff in preparation for an October 2022 shutdown date, according to DEP spokesperson Edward Timbers. “Those include a distribution project in the city, completing the connection from the Croton Filtration Plant to City Water Tunnel #2; a project to facilitate moving water around the upstate supply system, at the pumping stations at Cross River and Croton Falls; and finally securing backup supplies for upstate municipalities in the towns of Newburgh/Marlboro, Wawarsing and Bedford.
“This is the most complex repair in the history of NYC’s water supply system and in order to have a successful shutdown, all of the necessary conditions must be in order,” Timbers added.
The postponement occurs as the conservation community in the Upper Delaware River was pressing the DEP on its approach to the shutdown.
The Delaware Aqueduct draws water from a series of four reservoirs in the Upper Delaware River region—the Neversink, the Pepacton, the Cannonsville and the Rondout. The water that gets diverted through the aqueduct will instead build up in those reservoirs during the aqueduct’s shutdown, increasing the chances of flooding along the Delaware River. Members of the conservation community, including the Friends of the Upper Delaware River (FUDR), Trout Unlimited and the Upper Delaware Council, sought to work with the DEP in advance of the shutdown to address concerns about those chances. FUDR and Trout Unlimited provided the DEP with data analyzing 10 years of inflows to the reservoirs, and requested a specialized plan in response to that data lessening the flood risk from those reservoirs.
“The conservation community pressed them hard on our analysis that even a 30 percent void might not inhibit the threat of problematic flooding in the communities below the dams [and] their lack of energy in reaching out to the public as we got closer to the launching [of] the project,” said Jeff Skelding, executive director of FUDR.
“DEP has put together a robust operations plan to manage reservoir levels before, during and after the shutdown,” said Timbers. This plan includes full compliance with the Flexible Flow Management Plan (FFMP), a set of regulations enacting a 1954 Supreme Court decree that manages discharges and withdrawals from the Delaware River.
The River Master’s office, the body that oversees the FFMP, has also communicated with the DEP regarding the planned shutdown. It doesn’t anticipate any difficulty in the DEP meeting its 1954 obligations, according to river master Kendra Russell.
Postponing the shutdown to 2023 gives the DEP more time to manage the shutdown’s impact on New York City; this is the postponement’s stated goal. The postponement also gives advocates along the Delaware River more time to spread awareness of and make ready for the shutdown’s potential impacts there.
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