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Delaware River Basin Flood Mitigation Task Force Action Agenda Presented To Governors

For Immediate Release

July 17, 2007

(WEST TRENTON, N.J.)  -- Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) Executive Director Carol R. Collier today announced that the Delaware River Basin Interstate Flood Mitigation Task Force has completed and forwarded to the four basin state governors its action agenda for a more proactive, sustainable, and systematic approach to flood damage reduction.

The final report with 45 consensus recommendations was submitted by letter dated July 12 from Collier to Delaware Gov. Ruth Ann Minner, New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, and Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell, who serve as DRBC members along with presidential appointee Brigadier General Todd Semonite.

The four basin state governors, including then-New York Gov. George Pataki, initiated the process by jointly sending a letter to Collier on Sept. 21, 2006, directing commission staff to form the interstate task force after the Delaware Basin was devastated by severe floods in September 2004, April 2005, and June 2006.  This followed a period of nearly 50 years without any widespread flooding on the Delaware River.

"The task force members, after evaluating flood prevention and mitigation options and considering public written and verbal comments, concluded that no set of mitigation measures will entirely eliminate flooding along the Delaware River," Collier said.  "However, they believe that a combination of measures will improve the basin’s capacity to prepare for and recover from flooding in the future."

The flood loss reduction recommendations identified by the task force are based on a set of guiding principles that include floodplain restoration and protection, institutional and individual preparedness, local stormwater management and engineering standards, and the judicious use of structural and non-structural measures.  Six management areas are addressed:  reservoir operations, structural and non-structural mitigation, stormwater management, floodplain mapping, floodplain regulation, and flood warning.

In response to the public perception of a cause and effect relationship between spilling reservoirs in the upper basin and flood occurrence in the main stem river between Hancock, N.Y. and Trenton, N.J., the task force concluded that flooding would still occur along the Delaware even if a year-round void program was implemented.  Historic data indicate that major flooding on the main stem Delaware River occurred before New York City reservoirs were built or in the absence of spills after they were put into service.

While stopping short of advocating permanent voids, task force members called for evaluating the cumulative effects of operations at all existing major basin reservoirs to develop a coordinated action plan to reduce the likelihood and volume of spills as long as water supplies are not adversely affected.

Other immediate actions proposed by the task force include:

  • Establishing areas of priority funding for acquisition, elevation, and flood proofing.
  • Developing and implementing a consistent set of comprehensive floodplain regulations beyond minimum National Flood Insurance Program standards across the entire Delaware River Basin.
  • Enabling stormwater utilities.  This approach has water quality and quantity benefits and reinforces the states' existing momentum for stormwater management and control of non-point source (runoff) pollution.

The 31-member task force convened on Oct. 25, 2006, and developed a preliminary action plan that was submitted to the governors along with a progress letter on Dec. 29, 2006.  This draft plan was the focus of four public meetings attended by over 200 people that were held throughout February 2007 in Delhi, N.Y., Wilmington, Del., Ewing, N.J., and Easton, Pa.  An additional 60 written letters were submitted during the public comment period. 

Task force members decided to make several changes to the final report based on the public feedback process, but retained the basic recommendation architecture of the public review draft action plan.  Key changes involved adding a more detailed description concerning hydrologic conditions in the basin that contribute to tributary and main stem flooding, a reservoir operations findings statement addressing the issue of using water supply reservoirs for flood control, more specific implementation accountability for each of the actions, a new recommendation regarding the need for an ice jam monitoring and communication plan, and various corrections, edits and clarifications to the substance of specific recommendations.  An appendix was added to the report to document the public participation process and an implementation matrix was developed to provide for a structured implementation process over the short and medium term timeframe.

The complete report, along with additional task force information, can be viewed on the commission's web site at www.drbc.net.

The DRBC was formed by compact in 1961 through legislation signed into law by President John F. Kennedy and the governors of the four basin states with land draining to the Delaware River (Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania).  The passage of this compact marked the first time in our nation's history that the federal government and a group of states joined together as equal partners in a river basin planning, development, and regulatory agency.


Contact: Clarke Rupert, DRBC, 609-883-9500 ext. 260, clarke.rupert@drbc.state.nj.us