After pleas by sportsmen and conservation groups, the Upper Delaware River got a much-needed pulse of cold water beginning Wednesday morning to refresh the fragile ecosystem during a stretch of above-average temperatures.
The Delaware Watershed Conservation Coalition appealed this week to state conservation agencies in Pennsylvania and New York after daytime water temperatures approached 75 degrees at Lordville, N.Y., endangering aquatic life in the cold water ecosystem of the upper Delaware River.
In response, consultations among the multi-state government agencies involved in Delaware River water management led to a decision to increase the release of cold dam water from 600 to 900 cubic feet per second over a 48-hour period.
"We're grateful that the governing agencies and key personnel that oversee the river responded to our concerns, particularly Leroy Young at the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, who initiated the formal request for more cold water, and Paul Rush at the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, who spearheaded the multi-state cooperation necessary for approval," said Jeff Skelding, executive director of Friends of the Upper Delaware River.
But the conservation coalition noted that the reservoirs contained ample supplies of water that could have been released before the hot weather descended on the region.
"The frustrating part is that there is plenty of cold water available, and it should have been released prior to air temperatures reaching 90-plus degrees," said Lee Hartman of the Pennsylvania Council of Trout Unlimited. "On Tuesday, the Cannonsville and Pepacton reservoirs were each at 96 percent of capacity, well above average for mid-July."
This isn't the first time hot weather has threatened the unique cold water ecosystem of the Upper Delaware River. Similar situations have occurred in past summers. "While we're pleased that the water agencies responded, this is still a good news-bad news story," said Dan Plummer, board chairman of Friends of the Upper Delaware River. "We shouldn't have to scramble for cold water at the 11th hour every time it gets hot."
For years, conservation groups have encouraged the water agencies to devise a plan for systematic releases during the inevitable summer stretches when air and water temperatures rise.
"The economic health of our communities and the region is inextricably linked to the quality of this magnificent river resource," said Ron Urban, president of the New York State Council of Trout Unlimited. "This won't be the last time the river will face the threat of extended periods of hot weather. The long-term solution is a heat relief program with releases tied to temperature triggers and habitat sustainability."