Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Sharing The Waters

Delaware River - via Trout Unlimited NJ State Council

Conservationists have argued for years that there has been environmental damage from mismanagement of the Delaware River. Back in 2007, a new plan for the river and its three reservoirs was adopted. The plan allows for releases of water from reservoirs into the Delaware River depending on the reservoir capacity and the season of the year.

Such a plan is necessary, but critics still believe it harms the river, its fish and
wildlife, and the communities that border it.

Wylie, an avid fisherman, wrote to me to say that he would like to see more posts about the environmental issues on the Delaware River System. (He attached the photo with a Delaware River brown trout.) He is particularly concerned about browns and the McCloud rainbow trout which he feels are threatened because of the policies concerning the releasing of water from New York reservoirs.

The Delaware River, which flows for hundreds of miles through Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York, is home to many fish and wildlife species.

American shad are another interesting case. They travel hundreds of miles each spring from the Atlantic Ocean up the Delaware River, where they spawn. The Delaware is one of the only East Coast river ecosystems that supports a healthy, self-sustaining shad population.

Disagreements about how water is released from New York State reservoirs - which provide drinking water to New York City's five million residents - is long standing.

Of course, the river is also important for tourism in all three states, and a concern for residents who experience floods.

The problems with this "unnatural" release of water into river ecosystems is not unique here. A Web search will turn up plenty of ther cases with small and large rivers (like the Colorado River) around the world. Many of the problems stem from the inconsistency of the flow.

When the Delaware gets a surge of water flowed from the Catskill's Cannonsville reservoir into the West Branch of the Delaware River in New York State and then a week later it is cut down to just 5% percent of what it was just days before, you are going to do damage to an ecosystem. Not only the Delaware, but its tributaries get smaller and fish and wildlife habitat is compromised.

Back in April, the NJ Department of Environmental Protection cut back the amount of water being released from Lake Hopatcong from a high of more than 7 million gallons a day to about 4.2 million gallons by adjusting the gates on the dam

The state sometimes reduces flow to inspect dam structures, analyze aquatic vegetation and lakeshore structures for repairs.

In April, the concern was for businesses surrounding the lake that are concerned about the low water level hampering lake-related tourism.

On the environmental side, the DEP needs to take into account the needs of the downstream Lake Musconetcong, various trout streams and also a sewage treatment plant.

Springtime is a critical time for spawning fish, hatching insects and birds, all of whom would be negatively affected by fluctuations of the flow.

Our human engineering of water needs to be done in a way that acknowledges the needs of people and wildlife.

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