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NYC DEP, Three States Agree On Delaware River Contingency Plan

New York, two other states and New York City have agreed on a plan to manage water flow in the Delaware River. This comes after New Jersey did not sign off on what has become an annually-agreed upon plan. New York City and state officials are wagging a finger at New Jersey while the Garden State’s environmental officials say it’s time they got their fair share. WAMC’s Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Allison Dunne has more.

The issue surrounds the Flexible Flow Management Program, or FFMP. Since it was first adopted in 2008, the program has regulated the flow of water from New York City’s three reservoirs — Cannonsville, Neversink and Pepacton — on the headwaters of the Delaware River. The program had been extended for several years upon unanimous agreement of New York City and the states of Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, which were given that authority by a 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decree. The latest extension was set to expire May 31. This time, New Jersey would not sign. Adam Bosch is spokesman for the New York City Department of Environmental Protection.

“Everyone, I think, even the stakeholders recognize that these issues are difficult. They’re technical. There’s a lot of interests that are competing,” Bosch says. “But, in that case, there was only one party that was willing to inflict harm upon the river and the people who depend upon the river and that was New Jersey.”

Without New Jersey’s consent, a 1983 program known as Revision 1 would have come into effect. However, Bosch says that would have outlined minimum releases while the FFMP outlines exact release rates that New York City has to meet. So New York City DEP came up with the following plan.

“New York City, with a letter of support from the three states was going to voluntarily release additional quantities of water above and beyond the minimums outlined in Revision 1 to preserve the ecological health of the river, preserve the fishery, bolster the tourism businesses from the harm that would have been inflicted by New Jersey’s position,” Bosch says.

Bob Considine is spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. He says New Jersey declined to sign the FFMP extension because it wants its fair share of water from New York City. Considine says this is something New Jersey DEP has made clear to New York City for more than four years. In his statement, Considine says New Jersey wants a more sensible FFMP that will result in a more fair and equitable distribution of water in the Delaware River basin that will benefit ecological resources, water supply management and flood control for the entire basin. Again, Bosch.

“If New York City didn’t take this action supported by the three states, the amount of water released downstream from the three reservoirs would’ve been cut by more than half, the flood protection programs that we worked on would have been eliminated and there would have been significant harm done to the river and the people who depend on the river,” says Bosch.

New York state Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos, in a statement, says the agreement executed preserves the important water releases provided by the FFMP to support more than 35 miles of prized cold water trout streams, protecting both the natural environment and an important regional economic driver. Seggos adds that the New York City DEP’s voluntary action also will help limit peak high water levels in communities that have a long and difficult history of damaging floods.    

Bosch says the five parties are due to speak in the next few weeks and the hope is to resume discussions with New Jersey at the table. New Jersey’s Considine also is hopeful the parties can negotiate a resolution that satisfies all involved.

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