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DRBC To Begin Public Rulemaking Process On Proposed Management Program For The New York City Delaware Basin Reservoirs

For Immediate Release

October 2, 2007

(WEST TRENTON, N.J.) -- The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) at its September 26 meeting directed commission staff to begin the public rulemaking process to implement an amended Flexible Flow Management Program (FFMP) for operation of the three New York City Delaware Basin reservoirs.

“Since the five parties to the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decree reached unanimous agreement on a revised FFMP, the commissioners have authorized me to begin the public process over the coming weeks that would incorporate the FFMP into the commission’s rules and regulations,” DRBC Executive Director Carol R. Collier said.  “The next steps will be to draft and publish proposed rule changes to implement the FFMP, hold informational meetings and public hearings, review the public comments received, make possible modifications to the proposed rules, and adopt final regulations.  Our target is to complete the process by May 2008.”

“The law creating the DRBC gives the commission the power to allocate the waters of the basin, but prohibits it from adversely affecting the reservoir releases or diversions provided in the 1954 decree without the unanimous consent of the five decree parties,” Collier added.

The parties to the 1954 Supreme Court decree include Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York State, and New York City.  The members of the DRBC are the four basin states and the federal government.

The proposed regulations along with the dates of the upcoming public meetings and hearings will be posted on the commission’s web site at www.drbc.net as soon as they are available.

The FFMP is intended to provide a more adaptive means for managing the Cannonsville, Pepacton, and Neversink reservoirs for multiple, competing uses, including water supply and drought mitigation, management of the reservoir tailwater fisheries along with other habitat needs, and spill mitigation.  The 1954 decree, which resolved an interstate water dispute centering on the city reservoirs, made no provision for spill mitigation, conservation or ecological releases.

The FFMP agreement reached by the decree parties will be implemented on a temporary basis by New York State and New York City, in coordination with the Delaware River Master appointed under the decree, beginning on October 1, while DRBC conducts the public comment and rulemaking process.  The previous interim fishery releases program and temporary spill mitigation program expired on September 30.

A central feature of the fishery management program that had previously been in effect was the creation of reservoir storage “banks” to be used for narrowly defined purposes under specific hydrologic and temperature conditions at certain times of the year.

The FFMP would largely eliminate the use of banks and instead base releases on reservoir storage levels, resulting in larger releases when water is abundant and smaller releases when storage is at or below normal.  This approach would more closely approximate natural flows and provide more gradual transitions from higher to lower releases, which has been a concern voiced in the past by Upper Delaware anglers.

The FFMP agreement’s spill mitigation component is intended to reduce the likelihood that the three reservoirs could be full and spilling coincident with a major storm or thaw.  It does not include specified void targets.

An earlier FFMP proposal was published in February 2007.  That draft resulted in over 400 comments received from approximately 120 agencies, organizations, elected officials, and private citizens.  The decree parties decided to withdraw that version from receiving further DRBC consideration and resumed negotiations, taking under advisement the comments received.  Those deliberations concluded with the current version that was unanimously agreed to on the morning of September 26 just prior to the afternoon commission meeting.

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.

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Clarke Rupert, (609) 883-9500 ext. 260

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