One way to alert the public in the event of an unlikely upstream dam failure that would flood the Delaware River Corridor is to blast sirens.

UPPER DELAWARE - One way to alert the public in the event of an unlikely upstream dam failure that would flood the Delaware River Corridor is to blast sirens.

Upper Delaware Council (UDC), Thursday night, September 7, heard a presentation about one such siren set up in Sparrowbush, NY, just north of Port Jervis. Jack Flynn, Town of Deerpark Emergency Management Director, told of the reasoning behind it, the technical problems they faced setting it up and how they attempt to educate the public about the siren.

“I’ve lived around here since the 1955 flood, so I really know how quick it can [flood]… It isn’t just the floods but we are in a very flood-prone area. We have the Neversink to worry about, and the Delaware. Of course the Delaware drives the Neversink. The Delaware comes up, the Neversink backs up.”

They spoke to the Orange County 9-1-1 center and found a company in Wisconsin to be able to get the Town a small aerial set they could set up in the Sparrowbush firehouse.

“The only problem is, we did get that far along, it did set it off but it also set off the garage doors, opening.” They went back to the drawing board.
The Town now has a system where they can manually set off the siren or it can be done remotely by wireless signal through Orange County. The siren is used for a variety of emergency situations, including a dam failure, hurricane or other severe storm, train incident, hazardous materials incident, major forest or brush fire, and any natural or manmade catastrophe.

To warn of a pending flood, they use an up-and-down warble sound in three cycles that last four minutes. He said that the tone is a bit different for a forest fire.

The Town’s website advises that in an actual emergency, individuals should contact Orange County 911 or the Town of Deerpark Emergency Operations Center (845-856-3911) for information on the type of emergency.

The Town Council decided, as of September 1 at 1 p.m., to test it every quarter on the first Friday of the month.

The cost for the Town of Deerpark was about $5,500.  

Cuddebackville, on the Neversink River, is also planning a flood siren which is expected to be online later in 2018. They also encountered the same issues with rust and birds, if a siren isn’t used in some time.

“I think it’s a good thing; you may never need it. After seeing the flooding…,” Flynn said. “I sure want to be prepared and sure wouldn’t want somebody to lose their life.”

Town of Deerpark uses their website to educate about the siren. Posters are put up and Flynn has spoken to various community groups.

Fred Peckham, UDC representative for the Town of Hancock, suggested that he share his information with them and pass it on to the engineers for the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, which oversees the Cannonsville, Pepacton and Neversink reservoirs for city water supply.

These large reservoirs release water into the upper portion of the Delaware River.

Sirens have an advantage in the river valley, which has only spotty cell phone reception, it was noted.

Gas drilling

Laurie Ramie, UDC Executive Director, briefed the group about an Associated Press report dated Sept. 7, that the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) has proposed a permanent ban on natural gas development activities throughout the four-state basin.

This effectively impacts only Wayne and Pike counties, Pennsylvania, where the gas-soaked Marcellus Shale formation extends, deep underground. The shale continues in part of southern New York, but the State of New York enacted a statewide ban in May 2011.

A ban put in place by the DRBC would replace a de facto moratorium on gas drilling activities in place since 2010. Gas drilling has been on hold in the Delaware River basin region, pending a decision on regulations by the DRBC.

The moratorium has been hailed by environmentalists concerned about potential harm from hydraulic fracking on the water table. Land owners who leased acreage to drilling companies, particularly in Wayne County, have opposed the moratorium. A group of landowners in Wayne County filed a federal lawsuit against the DRBC in May 2016, on the argument that the agency does not have the authority to regulate gas drilling. The DRBC has declined comment on the pending litigation.

Members of the UDC predicted that if a ban is ordered, it won’t be the end of the matter as lawsuits would likely follow.

More than 10,000 Marcellus wells have been drilled in other areas of Pennsylvania in the last 10 years, as close as Susquehanna County.

Citing “a person with knowledge of the proposal” that spoke on the condition of anonymity, the AP reported that the DRBC was expected to make the plan public on Friday, Sept. 8, and could vote on it as early as the week of Sept. 11. [No word, however, was released by the DRBC as of Monday morning.]

Ramie stated that if and when the UDC receives any word, they would distribute it among their members.

Also discussed:

The UDC has published a newly revised map and guide containing information for anyone visiting the Upper Delaware Scenic & Recreational River. Staff worked on it over a month and a half period. Several businesses donated towards its publication, allowing a press run of 35,000. Ramie said they hope the map and guide will be good for three or four years before reprinting it.

New York City Delaware River Basin reservoir storage, as of August 29, is as follows: Cannonsville, 82.4% full; Pepacton, 88.0%; Neversink, 89.6%; average, 86.2%. The reservoir levels totaled 95 billion gallons above the drought watch line, 27 bg above the long term median. The river flew at the Montague Gage, at Milford Beach was 143.8% above normal, with an average flow of 3,119 cubic feet per second.

Stone repointing work and sidewalk repairs at the Roebling Bridge will be underway, Sept. 11 - Nov. 15. The National Park Service reported there would be only occasional traffic delays with flaggers directing traffic. The canal towpath trail under the bridge and the parking area on the New York side will be closed during the project.

National Park Service has several volunteer community service activities scheduled for National Public Lands Day, Saturday, Sept. 30. These include river cleanup, trial maintenance and pulling up invasive mile-a-minute weeds. For information call Kelleen Lanagan at 570-729-7134 ext. 2230.

A letter was approved by the UDC, to be sent to the PA Department of Transportation urging serious consideration be given the Skinners Falls Bridge in terms of its historic and cultural significance to the Upper Delaware River Valley.

The 116-year old, one-lane steel truss bridge underwent $701,000 in emergency repairs, which were completed in November 2016. Widespread public support for the span focuses on its functional purpose as a needed river crossing; pride in its 1988 National register of Historic Places designation and its picturesque, ornate features.

Ed Wesley, a noted naturalist from Milanville, passionately urged the UDC to send such a letter, to encourage preserving this bridge. The span connects River Road at Milanville, PA with Skinners Falls, NY, off Route 97, the next bridge upstream from Narrowsburg.

“As the NY-PA Joint Interstate Bridge Commission oversees the development of a purpose and need study to investigate the typical bridge options of rehabilitation, replacement, or removal, the UDC reiterates its call for preservation of this treasured structure,” the UDC letter states.

[Other UDC meeting items are planned for another article.]
The UDC meets on the first Thursday of the month at 7 p.m. at 211 Bridge St., Narrowsburg, NY. The office may be reached at 845-252-3022. Visit online at www.upperdelawarecouncil.org.