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Sunday, August 2, 2015

Normal Operations Resume at Cannonsville Reservoir on the West Branch of the Delaware River

As per the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, the turbid discharge has been successfully halted and the Cannonsville Dam remains safe and uncompromised

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced that drinking water diversions and downstream releases from Cannonsville Reservoir will be reduced to normal levels beginning Sunday due to repair work that has successfully halted the turbid discharge below Cannonsville Dam. The decision to resume normal operations at the reservoir – made in consultation with engineers at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) – also comes after weeks of testing and around-the-clock monitoring that proved the dam is safe, stable and uncompromised by the cloudy seepage that began three weeks ago.

Intensive monitoring at the site will continue as DEP resumes normal operations at Cannonsville Reservoir. These efforts will include 24-hour observations by on-site staff and surveillance cameras, daily engineering inspections, and near real-time monitoring of turbidity and safety instruments inside Cannonsville Dam. Although DEP is resuming normal drinking water and release operations, reservoir storage will likely continue to decline because the amount of water naturally flowing into the reservoir is generally less than the amount of water released to the river during summer.

On Saturday engineers began pumping two additional relief wells, for a total of four, downstream of Cannonsville Dam. These relief wells have successfully tapped into the pressurized groundwater that was carrying sediment into the West Branch Delaware River. By giving water from that aquifer a new path to flow, the relief wells have ended the mobilization of sediment and the cloudy, or turbid, water. Geotechnical engineers will turn their attention next week to the original boreholes that entered the pressurized groundwater and caused the condition below the dam. The process of permanently sealing shut those boreholes with grout is expected to take approximately one week.

After receiving approval from FERC on Saturday afternoon, DEP began to shift toward normal operations early Sunday morning. The drinking water diversion from Cannonsville Reservoir will be reduced to zero, in favor of diverting more drinking water from Pepacton and Neversink reservoirs. This will begin to balance the storage in the Delaware Water Supply System, in accordance with normal water supply operations. DEP will also begin to slowly reduce the amount of water released into the West Branch Delaware River from 1,500 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 500 cfs, the normal rate outlined in the Flexible Flow Management Program. (Water is currently flowing into the reservoir at a rate of approximately 300 cfs.) DEP has consulted with fisheries biologists at the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to develop the following schedule for reducing the release over the next four days:

Aug. 2 – 1,125 cfs

Aug. 3 – 844 cfs

Aug. 4 – 633 cfs

Aug. 5 – 500 cfs

Reducing the rate of release will also significantly extend the life of the cold water inside Cannonsville Reservoir, which is important for the fisheries downstream and inside the reservoir itself. There was approximately 25 billion gallons of cold water in the reservoir as of Sunday morning.

DEP will continue to provide updates on its Cannonsville Reservoir page and its watershed Facebook page. The department also intends to schedule public information meetings toward the end of August to discuss the repairs that were made downstream of the dam. Local press outlets, elected officials, emergency managers, and residents who attended DEP’s previous outreach meetings will be notified directly when times, dates and locations are set.

Background

On July 15, DEP increased drinking water diversions and downstream releases from Cannonsville Reservoir in response to an ongoing turbid discharge from a rock embankment below Cannonsville Dam. While DEP, its regulators, and consulting engineers did not believe the condition represented a threat to dam safety, DEP began drawing down the reservoir out of an abundance of caution to prioritize public safety while repairs proceeded. Reducing reservoir storage at Cannonsville has not posed a risk to the city’s water supply.

The turbid flow below the dam was discovered when workers were drilling borings in preparation for design and construction of a hydroelectric facility that is planned to be built there. All drilling work ceased when the workers noticed the flow of turbid water coming from a rock embankment near the release chamber.

An investigation indicated that the drilling released ground water under natural pressure, known as an artesian condition, several dozen feet below surface level. This caused an upward flow of water and sediment that was reaching the West Branch Delaware River. Since then, DEP has continued intensive monitoring at the dam. These include 24-hour monitoring by employees at the site, regular analysis of dam-safety instrumentation, and testing of the turbid sediment to identify and understand its origin. Federal, state, county and local officials – including officials from New Jersey and Pennsylvania – have been regularly updated since the condition at Cannonsville Dam was first discovered.

Placed into service in 1964, Cannonsville Reservoir was the last of New York City’s 19 reservoirs to be built. Water diverted from Cannonsville Reservoir for drinking water enters the West Delaware Tunnel and travels 44 miles to the upper end of Rondout Reservoir. From there, it is carried in the 85-mile-long Delaware Aqueduct. Water is released downstream from Cannonsville Reservoir under the terms of the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court Decree, and a flow program, known as the Flexible Flow Management Program, agreed upon by New York City and the states of Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. All other reservoirs in the city’s Delaware System have continued to meet their downstream release requirements under the Flexible Flow Management Program while the condition at Cannonsville is repaired.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

NYC Increases Reservoir Releases to Facilitate Repairs After Their Screw Up


The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) today increased drinking water diversions and downstream releases from Cannonsville Reservoir to facilitate necessary repairs in response to an ongoing turbid discharge from a rock embankment below Cannonsville Dam.

DEP, its regulators, and consulting experts do not believe, but don't really know if the turbid flow represents any imminent threat to the safety of the dam. While repairs are made, DEP believes it is prudent to draw down the reservoir through increased releases out of an abundance of caution; reducing storage does not pose a risk to the city’s water supply. Except when the river's environmental health is concerned, the NYC believes they can't spare one drop.

The turbid flow below the dam was discovered when workers were drilling borings in preparation for design and construction of the future hydroelectric facility to be built there. During the drilling, workers noticed a flow of turbid water coming from a rock embankment near the release chamber. They immediately contacted DEP engineers and ceased all work.

A preliminary investigation indicated that the drilling released ground water under natural pressure several dozen feet below surface level, causing an upward flow of water and sediment that is reaching the West Branch Delaware River increasing turbidity to that already caused by a poorly managed reservoir.

Since then, DEP has met with its regulators, consulting engineers, and other experts to further investigate the condition, and to identify next steps for monitoring and repair. In addition to reducing storage at Cannonsville Reservoir, DEP is taking several steps to minimize any potential risks. These include 24-hour monitoring by employees at the site, regular analysis of dam-safety instrumentation, and testing of the turbid sediment to identify and understand its origin.

DEP is also working with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation on the design and implementation of repairs to stop the flow of water and sediment below Cannonsville Dam.

Federal, state, county and local officials – including officials from New Jersey and Pennsylvania – have been made aware of the condition at Cannonsville Dam. These officials will be updated as DEP continues to examine and address the flow condition. DEP also plans to host a series of public meetings to further inform downstream residents in the days and weeks ahead.  Details on those meetings will follow soon.

Placed into service in 1964, Cannonsville Reservoir was the last of New York City’s 19 reservoirs to be built. Water drawn from Cannonsville enters the West Delaware Tunnel and travels 44 miles to the upper end of Rondout Reservoir. From there, it is carried in the 85-mile-long Delaware Aqueduct. Water is released from Cannonsville Reservoir under the terms of the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court Decree, and a flow program, known as the Flexible Flow Management Program and the NYC OST Program which doesn't work as proven by this seasons flow regime, agreed upon by New York City and the states of Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. All other reservoirs in the city’s Delaware System will continue to meet their downstream release requirements under the Flexible Flow Management Program while the condition at Cannonsville is investigated and repaired.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Statement of Department of Environmental Protection Deputy Commissioner Paul Rush on Extension of Flexible Flow Management Program


“New York City believes that adjustments to the current Flexible Flow Management Program (FFMP) could improve spill mitigation efforts, formalize a thermal relief protocol for fisheries, and support responsible water supply management for all the cities and towns that depend on the Delaware River and its headwaters. While there has been progress on some of these issues, an additional year under the current program will give the Decree Parties the time necessary to continue negotiating these complex and important issues, using sound science as our guide. DEP will also continue to use its Operations Support Tool to ensure we are releasing and diverting water responsibly from the city’s reservoirs. We hope that a more long-lasting program, accounting for the needs of water suppliers and downstream interests, can be developed and agreed upon by this time next year.”

For more information about the Flexible Flow Management Program, please see information from the Office of the Delaware River Master website by clicking here.

DEP manages New York City’s water supply, providing more than one billion gallons of high quality water each day to more than 9 million New Yorkers. This includes more than 70 upstate communities and institutions in Ulster, Orange, Putnam and Westchester counties who consume an average of 110 million total gallons of drinking water daily from New York City’s water supply system. This water comes from the Catskill, Delaware, and Croton watersheds that extend more than 125 miles from the City, and the system comprises 19 reservoirs, three controlled lakes, and numerous tunnels and aqueducts. DEP has nearly 6,000 employees, including almost 1,000 scientists, engineers, surveyors, watershed maintainers and other professionals in the upstate watershed. In addition to its $68 million payroll and $157 million in annual taxes paid in upstate counties, DEP has invested more than $1.7 billion in watershed protection programs—including partnership organizations such as the Catskill Watershed Corporation and the Watershed Agricultural Council—that support sustainable farming practices, environmentally sensitive economic development, and local economic opportunity. In addition, DEP has a robust capital program with over $14 billion in investments planned over the next 10 years that will create up to 3,000 construction-related jobs per year. For more information, visit nyc.gov/dep, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Upper Delaware River is Taking Heat

The Upper Delaware River is Taking Heat Again-Please Take Action!

The Upper Delaware River is heating up again this week with warming air temperatures and low river flows that are likely to threaten the cold water ecosystem and the regional businesses that rely on a healthy river. It's time to let key decision makers in NY State, NYC, PA, NJ, and DE know that a little more water goes a long way in these situations and that's what we need immediately in the Upper Delaware River watershed.

Please contact the following people and urge them to tap into reserve water supplies from the Delaware reservoirs to take the heat off the river and protect the economic and environmental health of a very special place that offers premiere recreational opportunities to visitors from all over the world.

Paul Rush (NYCDEP) prush@dep.nyc.gov ph:845-334-7107
Thom Murphy (NYCDEP) tmurphy@dep.nyc.gov ph: 914-742-2006
Mark Klotz (NYSDEC) maklotz@gw.dec.state.ny.us ph:518-402-8233
Fred Hensen (NYSDEC) fghenson@gw.dec.state.ny.us ph: 518-402-8901
Mark Hartle (PAFBC) mhartle@pa.gov ph: 814-359-5133
Kelly Heffner (PADEP) kheffner@pa.gov ph: (717) 783-2300
Hoss Liaghat (PADEP) aliaghat@pa.gov ph: (717) 783-2300
Dan Kennedy (NJDEP) Dan.Kennedy@dep.nj.gov ph: 609-292-4543
David Wunsch (UDEL) dwunsch@udel.edu ph: 302-831-8258

Monday, May 11, 2015

Upper Delaware Region Economy Suffers from Record Breaking Low River Flows



In 2014, a groundbreaking study revealed that the Upper Delaware River has the potential to generate significant economic value to the region when river flows and water temperatures are at levels that optimize recreational opportunities such as fishing and boating. The report also demonstrated how improved water releases from the Delaware River basin reservoirs could substantially increase economic revenues for the region. 

This week, the findings of that report came into crystal clear resolution as record- breaking low flows throughout the upper river system have chased away visitors in droves because they cannot enjoy river related recreational activities under current conditions.

“The low water has  negatively affected my business in an enormous way, and the season has only just started. Over the past few days my customer base virtually disappeared. The people are not coming.  My revenues are down and based on conversations I’m having with other business owners in the area, they are suffering in the same way. Something needs to be done,” said Theresa Allen, owner and operator of the Hancock Liquor Store based in the village of Hancock, NY
.
Low water inflows into the Delaware River basin reservoirs have resulted in severely limited amounts of water being released from the reservoirs, and record-breaking low water levels in the rivers. Low water makes it difficult and often impossible to float a boat of any kind down the river, and causes water temperatures to rise rapidly, posing grave threats to the habitat of the unique cold water ecosystem.

“Improved water releases can soften the blow when these kinds of weather patterns challenge the Upper Delaware River watershed, and this should be a resource management goal.  Low inflow conditions, coupled with long range forecasts of continued dry weather over the next 12 months, are going to present a real challenge for everyone this season,” said Garth Pettinger of NY Trout Unlimited.

“Our ability to mitigate the effects of these conditions, and adapt to them, will be critical.   To this end we have initiated calls for improved water releases, and a reduction in the disproportional reliance on the Delaware system for drinking water diversions. We’ve also requested that a formal thermal relief program be included in the next water management plan, and for directed releases to be distributed between the three rivers,” said Jeff Skelding, Executive Director of Friends of the Upper Delaware River.

Friends of the Upper Delaware River and NY Trout Unlimited are members of the Delaware Watershed Conservation Coalition. 


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

DRBC RELEASES UPDATED WATER RESOURCE PLANNING MODEL

The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) today announced the release of an updated modeling tool that will allow the public to test water management scenarios and compare their outcomes.

The tool, known as the Delaware River Basin-Planning Support Tool (DRB-PST), provides interested stakeholders with the ability to test flow management scenarios against a set of existing targets, regulations, and laws that govern the use of water within the Delaware River Basin. The tool will show users how those scenarios would change an array of outcomes, including the amount of water available for drinking supplies, downstream releases, habitat protection, flood mitigation, and more.

“The availability of the DRB-PST modeling tool is a positive development intended to support a more comprehensive understanding about how reservoir and flow management operating plans affect river flows and related aquatic habitats,” said DRBC Executive Director Steve Tambini. “It will allow interested stakeholders to use a science-based tool to compare the impacts of ‘what-if’ scenarios on multiple and complex water resource goals, targets and objectives.”

DRBC also announced that the DRB-PST model will be on the agenda of the Regulated Flow Advisory Committee meeting to be held at 10 a.m. on April 17 at the commission’s West Trenton, N.J. office. The public is invited to attend.

River flows, diversions out of the basin, and water uses within the basin are managed, operated and regulated through a series of complex and interdependent rules and targets. The DRB-PST model uses hydrologic inputs (like runoff and snowmelt), operating conditions, and management rules to help evaluate the impacts of reservoir operating plans on the multipurpose water resource objectives identified in the Delaware River Basin Compact, which created the DRBC in 1961.

Three reservoirs located in headwaters of the Delaware River that are owned and operated by the City of New York (NYC) provide about half of the city’s water supply. Downstream releases of water from these reservoirs and diversions out of the basin for NYC and New Jersey were established and continue to be negotiated by Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and NYC (commonly known as “the Decree Parties”) under the terms of a 1954 U.S. Supreme Court Decree and the subsequent Good Faith Agreement Recommendations.

The DRBC and the Decree Parties have some overlapping membership and a long history of collaboration on planning and modeling issues within the Delaware River Basin. The DRBC signatory members include the four basin states and the federal government. NYC is not a DRBC member. The Compact prohibits the DRBC from adversely affecting the releases or diversions provided in the 1954 Decree without the unanimous consent of the five Decree Parties.

The Flexible Flow Management Program (FFMP), which has been unanimously approved by the Decree Parties, is intended to meet water supply demands, protect fisheries habitat downstream of the NYC-Delaware Basin reservoirs, enhance flood mitigation, and repel the upstream movement of salt water in the Delaware Estuary. The FFMP’s target numbers and goals are included in the PST-DRB model and any changes to the FFMP in the future can be reflected in the model as well.

The DRBC’s original water supply planning model was developed in 1981. That model was revised several times to include additional data, facilities, and flow management policies, and was moved into OASIS software in the early 2000s. The original OASIS model known as DRB-OASIS can simulate the current FFMP, including the Combined Seasonal Storage Objective (CSSO) for flood mitigation, but not the revised Habitat Protection Program (HPP) which has evolved since the first FFMP. The Habitat Protection Program uses simulated forecasts of reservoir inflows to determine the amount of water available for fisheries releases from the three NYC reservoirs. In doing so, modeling can be performed to evaluate scenarios that use water more efficiently for fisheries habitat objectives while maintaining the reliability of critical water supply objectives and flood mitigation components of the FFMP.

The DRB-PST incorporates aspects of NYC’s Operations Support Tool (OST), a sophisticated monitoring and modeling system that allows for better predictions than previous tools of reservoir-specific water storage levels, quality, and inflows. OST uses forecasts to determine the amount of available water to release for habitat protection and assesses the risks of reservoir operations to public water supply needs across the entire NYC reservoir system, not only its three Delaware River Basin reservoirs. DRB-PST incorporates the OST simulated forecasts for long-term water supply planning based on reservoir operations. A technical working group from DRBC, the Decree Parties (four states and NYC), and the City of Philadelphia have worked together to ensure that the model is useful for those with an interest in Delaware River operations. This group will continue to evaluate and verify model inputs and results and release revised PST versions as necessary.

“Scientists and engineers from DRBC and New York City collaborated to ensure this new public modeling tool produced accurate results that are comparable to those generated by the OST modeling tool that the City uses to make decisions about reservoir operations every day,” said Tambini.

Persons who did not previously use the DRB-OASIS model who wish to obtain the DRB-PST model for the first time will need to purchase required software. Additional information about DRB-PST and the upcoming Regulated Flow Advisory Committee meeting can be found on the commission’s web site at www.drbc.net.

DRBC is a federal/interstate government agency responsible for managing the water resources within the 13,539 square-mile Delaware River Basin without regard to political boundaries. The five commission members are the governors of the basin states and the commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ North Atlantic Division, who represents the federal government. More information concerning the 1954 Decree, the Decree Parties, and related water management activities can be found on the web site for the USGS Office of the Delaware River Master at http://water.usgs.gov/osw/odrm/.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Working to Improve Access on the Upper Delaware River

Delaware Highlands Conservancy Launches Fundraising
Campaign for River Access in Long Eddy, NY

Hawley, PA and Bethel, NY— Hours of community input are coming to
fruition as the next phase of the Sullivan County River Access Plan, an initiative
which has engaged and activated the community, is now being initiated.

As Sue Currier, Executive Director for the Delaware Highlands Conservancy,
explains, “The Conservancy is honored to be helping to implement a plan that
Sullivan County and the community developed to revitalize river communities,
enhance our economic vitality, and develop a coordinated, cohesive approach to
branding the county’s river accesses. As a result, we’re coordinating a
fundraising campaign to make this next phase happen, beginning with the Long
Eddy river access.”

The purpose of the fundraising campaign is to purchase, protect, and improve
the fishing and boat access site to the Delaware River located in Long Eddy,
Sullivan County, NY.

At present, the Long Eddy access is popular with river guides and recreational
users, but does not have a ramp or sufficient parking. The resulting crowded
conditions reduce use by all but the most determined, and create conflicts over
inappropriate parking with the nearby residents and businesses. The recently
completed Sullivan County River Access Plan has identified the need to enhance
access to the Delaware River for recreational enthusiasts and provide additional
economic lift to our river towns, such as Long Eddy.

The Delaware Highlands Conservancy has signed a contract to acquire a piece
of private property located along the Delaware River, adjacent to the existing
road used as the boat launch. It will be conveyed to the NYS DEC, who will in
turn improve the boat launch for all river users.

The purchase, holding, and subsequent transfer of the property will cost
approximately $20,000, and the Conservancy is hosting a fundraising campaign
to cover these costs. The campaign may be accessed via Indiegogo at
https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/improve-the-long-eddy-river-access or more information is available on the Conservancy’s website at http://www.DelawareHighlands.org. Every dollar donated goes
directly to the project and, in turn, benefits the local community, its businesses,
and all river users.

As Jeff Graff, an avid fly fisherman, explains, "The Delaware River is a truly
amazing natural resource and a fly fisherman’s dream. It’s clear, clean waters
flow over cobble bottom long eddies and riffles that meander through the
ancient, dark hills and hardwood forests of southern New York and northeastern
Pennsylvania and hold abundant populations of healthy, wild rainbow and
brown trout. Its prolific aquatic insect hatches of mayflies, caddis flies and
stoneflies provide some of the best and most challenging fly fishing
opportunities for fishermen in the United States.”\

He continues, “Creating and maintaining access to the river is essential, not only
to fishermen interested in ensuring that the fishery remains vital and accessible
to drift boats and wade fishermen, but also to other recreational users of the river
such as canoeists and kayakers."

The Delaware Highlands Conservancy works with landowners and communities
to protect the healthy lands, clean waters, eagles and other wildlife, and
sustainable economies of the Upper Delaware River region. For more
information, send an email to info@delawarehighlands.org or call 845-583-1010