The Delaware River Basin states and New York City failed to reach an agreement on managing the city's reservoirs last night, threatening the health of the people, businesses, and fish and wildlife that call the river basin home.
"We are deeply disappointed to learn the parties were unable to come together for the watershed," said Maddy Urbish, Director of the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed. "This has major implications for the entire region."
Water releases from the reservoir system keep salt away from the drinking water intakes in Philadelphia and New Jersey. They also protect the ecology of the river, featuring an internationally renowned cold water fishery, many recreational opportunities, and ensure both drought relief and flood protection. Flow from these reservoirs is managed through an interagency agreement between New York City and the four states of the Delaware River Basin: New Jersey, New York, Delaware and Pennsylvania, known as Decree Parties. In order to make any changes to the management of these resources, the Decree Parties must agree unanimously, or management reverts back to an antiquated system from the 1980s known as 'Revision 1.'
Revision 1 allows for fewer conservation releases that help maintain a healthy ecosystem and support the eco-tourism industries that rely on this river. Revision 1 also removes a requirement to keep the reservoirs under capacity during certain months to lower risks of flooding and results in less water for New Jersey during drought.
Coalition member and New York state lead Friends of the Upper Delaware River has been encouraging the states and New York City to work together. Executive Director Jeff Skelding remarked, "the Decree Parties need to continue the conversation and come up with a plan that fully protects the economy and ecology of the Upper Delaware River watershed."
Management of the reservoirs has officially gone back to Revision 1 as of today. The Decree Parties still have an opportunity to come to an agreement and avert any further damage to the watershed caused by this poor system. Concerned individuals and groups can call or email the Decree Party principals to urge them to come to an agreement here.
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The Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed, led by New Jersey Audubon and the National Wildlife Federation, unites organizations working in the region to share information, leverage resources, and advocate for a healthy Delaware River Basin.