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Cool trout during heat wave; Releases from the reservoir

Conservation groups urge officials to formalize a process for keeping a stretch of the river cool.
TRR photo by Amanda Reed

By Fritz Mayer
July 24, 2013

UPPER DELAWARE VALLEY — Trout-fishing enthusiasts have long had a goal of keeping water temperatures in a stretch of the Upper Delaware River cool enough during heat waves to protect the health of the trout and ensure the survival of the cold-water fishery.

There is some consensus among those who are concerned with the issue that if the water temperature in the river rises above 75 degrees Fahrenheit, the trout are under severe stress. Because of the abundance of cold water at the bottom of the Cannonsville Reservoir, trout enthusiasts say that with limited releases during heat waves, it is possible to keep temperatures in the river’s Main Stem above Lordville, and in the West Branch, at 75 degrees or below.

In the days leading up to last week’s heat wave, members of the Delaware Watershed Conservation Coalition (DWCC) scrambled to get action from the people responsible for making the decision regarding the releases. Because of the history of the river, and the bureaucratic framework that governs reservoir releases, that is not always an easy thing to do.

The decision about the cool water release is ultimately made by people known as “principles,” who are representatives of the governors of New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and also a representative from the New York City Department of Environmental Preservation.

Those five people must all agree on the release before it can be put into effect. As this heat wave was starting, which seemed certain to result in a “thermal stress event,” DWCC put out a press release saying they contacted the relevant parties in New York and Pennsylvania, who in turn conferred with representatives of the other states and ultimately obtained agreement on a release of 300 cubic feet per second for 48 hours. But the conservation groups had to scramble to get it accomplished.

The release succeeded almost completely in keeping temperatures at Lordville below the critical 75 degree level, with the exception of about an hour on Friday, July 17 during which the gage read 75.02 degrees (23.9 centigrade).

A statement from Jeff Skelding, executive director of Friends of the Upper Delaware River, read, “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,”

FUDR hires first executive director

The board of directors of the Friends of the Upper Delaware River (FUDR) has announced the hiring of Jeff Skelding as the group’s first executive director.

Skelding most recently served as director of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. He has spent decades working in various positions with the National Wildlife Federation and other conservation-minded groups.

“We are excited to have Jeff on board to help the protection and enhancement of the Upper Delaware community reach the next level,” said Dr. Peter C. Bousum, secretary of the FUDR board.

Dan Plummer, board chairman, added, “The mission of FUDR is to protect, preserve and enhance the ecosystem and cold-water fishery of the Upper Delaware River system and to address any environmental threats to our area for the benefit of local communities, residents and visitors to the region. We see Jeff Skelding as the right man for the challenges we face.”

“The river played a vital role in shaping my occupation,” Skelding said. “Comprehensive watershed protection must address a mosaic of often complex economic, social, cultural and ecological considerations. That’s hard work. But with increasing frequency, this integrated approach is producing results across the country that benefit people, communities, wildlife, and water quality. With your help, I look forward to putting this agenda into action.”