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NARROWSBURG, NY — Delaware River Master Robert R. Mason Jr. and his deputy Kendra Russell appeared at the April 4 meeting of the Upper Delaware Council and delivered a program on their duties and operations.
Their appearance provided the stage for another renewal of arguments about the timing and volume of reservoir releases during drought and hot weather.
The office of the river master was created in the U.S. Geological Survey from the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decree that allocated basin water among the four basin states and New York City. Primarily it provided the city’s right to 800 million gallons of water daily.
It also created a gauge at Montague, NJ, where a minimum river flow of 1,750 cubic feet per second is monitored and when necessary augmented by releases from three upstream city reservoirs, as directed by the river master.
The basin’s various interests have debated and several times agreed to amend drought operating procedures, but amendments require the seldom found agreement of all five “decree” parties. Upstream areas want fisheries protected and press for the availability of timed conservation releases to prevent fish-kill in overheated waters. Mason said consistent flows were his office’s sole goal. “The river master designs with numbers we’re given, with no account for conservation releases,” Mason said.
Reduced river flows create advancing invasive “salt line” concerns during drought and threaten downstream urban drinking water providing the lower basin’s greatest and most often repeated concerns.
Russell admitted that their release planning, which involves the use of five-day weather forecasts and, more recently, the volunteer cooperation of private dams on Lake Wallenpaupack and the Mongaup River, make the process difficult. “It’s better than it was, but it’s still an inexact science.”
The UDC has received no funding since an 18.63% (Continuing Resolution) share of $55,890 of the annual $300,000 allocation. That was intended to reimburse UDC for its FY 2019 expenses since the beginning of the new fiscal year on October 1. The year is now in its 3rd quarter and the amount owed is $244,110.
Executive director Laurie Ramie reported last week that UDC now needs to consider and adopt another closure plan, which would go into effect some four months after the expiration of unallocated funds.
NY and PA state assembly representatives, Aileen Gunter and Jonathan Fritz have each introduced resolutions to include $100,000 in UDC funding in the new state budgets. Neither state has honored obligations to fund UDC over the past 31 years.
Heister to Gettysburg
Upper Delaware NPS Superintendent Kris Heister announced last week that this week she will become Acting Superintendent at Gettysburg National Military Park, for the next four months. “I will be coming back,” she added. The Upper Delaware has advertised for another acting superintendent. Management Assistant, Carla Hahn will take that role until a new acting superintendent is selected
For more information about the UDC meeting visit riverreporter.com/news.