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    New Proposed Delaware Release Plan

    DELAWARE RIVER BASIN

    18 CFR Part 410


    Amendments to the Comprehensive Plan and Water Code Relating to a Flexible Flow Management Plan for Operation of the New York City Delaware AGENCY: Delaware River Basin Commission.

    ACTION: Notice of proposed rulemaking.

    ---------------------------------------------
    SUMMARY: The Commission will hold a public hearing and accept written comment on a proposal to amend the agency's Comprehensive Plan and Water Code to establish a Flexible Flow Management Program (FFMP) for the New York City Delaware Basin Reservoirs Delaware

    Reservoirs'') for multiple objectives, including, among others, water supply and drought mitigation; management of the reservoir tailwater fisheries and other habitat needs, and spill mitigation. The current reservoir releases program, which was established by Resolution No. 2004-3 in April of 2004, will expire on May 31, 2007. The current spill mitigation program, established by Resolution No. 2006-18, also will expire on May 31, 2007. The Commission will also accept comment on alternative reservoir management strategies that may be adopted in the event that consensus on the proposed FFMP is not reached.The alternative reservoir releases options to be considered are: extending the current reservoir releases program or reinstating a previous reservoir releases program plan. Either option would be considered in combination with a seasonal spill mitigation program or an annual spill mitigation program for the three reservoirs. The releases program adopted in the event consensus is not reached on the FFMP would continue in effect until any expiration date contained in the program adopted or unless and until replaced by another program that has been approved by the Commission following a notice and comment rulemaking process. In accordance with Section 3.3 of the Delaware River Basin Compact, any program affecting the diversions, compensating releases, rights, conditions, and obligations of the 1954 Supreme Court Decree in the matter of New Jerseylace v. New York, 347 U.S. 995, 74 S. Ct. 842 also requires the unanimous consent of the decree parties, which include the states of Delaware, New Jersey and New Yorklace, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the City of New York

    DATES: Two public hearings on the proposal will be conducted at 2:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. respectively on Tuesday, March 27, 2007 at the Lake Wallenpaupack Environmental Learning Center in Hawley, PA. Written comments will be accepted through April 6, 2007. To allow sufficient time for consideration of written comments, comments must be received, not merely postmarked, by that date. In addition, three informational meetings will be held on the proposal. The first will take place during the morning conference session of the Commission's regularly scheduled meeting on Wednesday, February 28, 2007 at the DRBC office building in West Trenton, NJ. The second will take place during a meeting of the Commission's Regulated Flow Advisory Committee (RFAC), which will take place at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, March 6, 2007 at the Commission's office building in West Trenton, NJ. The third informational meeting will take place at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, March 27, 2007, immediately prior to the first public hearing on the proposal, scheduled for that date at the Lake Wallenpaupack Environmental Learning Center in Hawley, PA.


    ADDRESSES: Directions to the Lake Wallenpaupack Environmental Learning Center are available at http://www.pplweb.com/lake+wallenpaupack/
    contacts+and+directions/get+directions.htm and will be posted on the DRBC Website, http://www.drbc.net,by February 20, 2007. Written comments must include the name, address and affiliation of the commenter. Comments may be submitted by e-mail to by U.S. Mail to: Commission Secretary, DRBC, P.O. Box 7360, West Trenton, NJ 08628-0360; and by fax to Attn: Commission Secretary at 609-883-9522. In all cases, the subject line, ``Comment on Flexible Flow Management Plan for City Delaware Reservoirs'' should be included.
    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: The text of the proposed FFMP in its entirety will be posted on the Web site of the Delaware River Basin Commission, on Tuesday, February 20, 2007 and will remain posted through May 9, 2007. Please contact Pamela M. Bush, Esquire, Commission Secretary and Asst. General Counsel at 609-883-9500 ext. 203 with questions about the proposed rule change or the rulemaking process.

    SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background. The flow management objectives considered by the Supreme Court Decree of 1954 were narrower than the diverse objectives that have emerged in the decades since. Today, the finite waters of the Delaware, and the limited storage available in the basin are being managed for multiple purposes, including among others water supply and drought mitigation, flood mitigation, and habitat protection in the tailwaters fishery, the mainstem and the estuary. In accordance with the Delaware River Basin Compact, a statute concurrently enacted in 1961 by the U.S. Government and the four basin States Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania--the Delaware River Basin Commission may modify diversions, releases, rights, conditions and obligations established by the decree, provided that the decree parties unanimously consent to such modifications. The Commission and decree parties have made use of this authority to provide flexibility to respond to fluctuating hydrologic conditions and evolving priorities throughout the Commission's history. In 1983, in accordance with an agreement among the parties known as the ``Good Faith Agreement,'' a reservoir release regime was established on a permanent basis to supplement the provisions of the decree for the limited purpose of protecting and enhancing the tailwaters fishery. Since the adoption of this regime in the form of a docket (similar to a permit) issued to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation--Docket D-77-20 CP (Revised)the ``fishery management program'' as the plan is sometimes called, has been modified repeatedly by the Commission with the unanimous consent of the decree parties. Resolution No. 2004-3, approving Docket D-77-20 CP (Revision 7), established the three-year interim program that is set to expire on May 31, 2007. A series of temporary spill mitigation programs also have been etablished, the latest in the form of Docket D-77-20 CP (Revision 9), approved by DRBC Resolution No. 2006-18 in September 2006. Unlike the experimental programs instituted by the Commission in the past, the FFMP is intended to provide a comprehensive framework for addressing multiple flow management objectives, including, in addition to water supply, drought mitigation and protection of the tailwaters fishery, a diverse array of habitat protection needs in the mainstem, estuary and bay, flood mitigation, recreational goals and salinity repulsion. Some of the flow needs identified by the parties have not yet been defined sufficiently for the development of detailed plans. These include protection of the dwarf wedgemussel, a Federal and State-listed endangered species present in the mainstem, oyster production in Delaware Bay, and protection of warm-water and migratory fisheries in the lower basin. Incremental and periodic adjustments are expected to based upon ongoing monitoring, scientific investigation, and periodic re-evaluation of program elements.

    A central feature of the reservoir release programs implemented to date for management of the tailwaters fishery has been the use of reservoir storage ``banks'' to be used for narrowly defined purposes under specific hydrologic and temperature conditions and at specified times of the year. These are applied in conjunction with a set of fixed seasonal flow targets. The system requires complex daily flow and temperature modeling as a component of determining the releases, and as a result, the program is difficult and costly to administer. The current approach also lacks the seasonal fluctuations characteristic of a natural flow regime. The FFMP would largely eliminate the use of banks and would base releases instead on reservoir storage levels, resulting in larger releases when water is abundant and smaller releases when storage is at or below normal. The result would more closely approximate a natural flow regime. In addition, the FFMP would provide for more gradual transitions (or ``ramping'') from higher to lower releases and vice versa than the current regime. The FFMP would include a spill mitigation component similar to but potentially more aggressive than the temporary programs implemented in the past. The storage represented by snowpack water content would continue to be considered.

    Hydrologic modeling and habitat assessments are being undertaken to evaluate the sustainable benefits of the FFMP for the tailwaters fishery and for spill mitigation. In addition, an evaluation is being made of the potential benefits and costs of increasing storage in one or more of the City Delaware Reservoirs that may improve the capacity of the system to meet the full range of flow objectives. If consensus among the decree parties and DRBC commissioners cannot be reached on details of the FFMP in time to approve and initiate implementation of the plan by June 1, 2007, the parties intend to continue to work at refining and improving the FFMP until such a consensus can be reached. The Commission will conduct a separate notice and comment rulemaking process on the proposed program at that time.

    Under such circumstances, for an interim period, the parties will consider extending the current fisheries management program or reinstating a previous regime. In either case, the releases program will be considered in combination with a spill mitigation plan.

    The proposed FFMP in its entirety will be posted on the Web site of the Delaware River Basin Commission, on Tuesday, February 20, 2007.
    Dated: February 5, 2007.

    Pamela M. Bush,
    Commission Secretary.

    [FR Doc. E7-2169 Filed 2-9-07; 8:45 am]








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    Re: New Proposed Delaware Release Plan

    Jim... The goal suggested here seems to make sense... Release more water when water is available and to more slowly change release rates. Of course the Devil is in the Details. Any discussions on what the decision rules might be as to how much gets released and when?

    What about Montague minimums? These typically trigger when the opposite is true... dry conditions later on in summer.

    "That wasn't your fly... was it?

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    Re: New Proposed Delaware Release Plan

    This is weird, I thought I posted this yesterday? I am losing my mind!?!

    Hi Fred,

    Very inciteful. You always have the good questions. Would you like to join us in the negotiations? We can use the help.

    You ask the big question about "discussion on what the decision rules might be" and the answer to that is YES. In fact, we have spent the last year in negotiations with the decree parties in trying to work out a release plan where everyone can win. That is the only way that this can happen as any decree party can veto the proposal. I think the simple concept of "release more water when it is available and less when there is less" is being seriously considered. This would get us away from the banks and targets and allow the river to be more like a natural river.

    The release numbers are what has been keeping us all busy over the last few months. The Nature Conservancy, Trout Unlimited, Delaware River Foundation, Columbia University (Dr. Peter Kolesar and crew) and recently Theodore Gordon Flyfishers have joined the "Conservation Coalition" in helping to find a workable solution to the problem. We have been working closely with the decree parties to develop a release plan that will help the rivers, protect against flooding and satisfy all the decree parties. Not an easy task!!!

    Time is short and we continue to take a step step forward and then a small step back. Progress is being made.

    In the short term, the Montague target will probably remain unchanged. This is one of the "Rights" that the downbasin states feel is theirs. You are right, in that it tends to run the opposite of common sense. The target "releases more water in a drought and less when there is plenty."

    Good questions and I hope that you will be ready to inform your NJ contingent of the decree parties what you would like to see when the time is right. NJ continues to be one of the more difficult obstacles in this entire process.

    During this critical period, I pledge to continue to keep you all informed.

    Jim


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    Re: New Proposed Delaware Release Plan

    Sorry Jim, I saw the last post date and thought you re-posted... My mistake.

    Pictures taken before/after/during fly fishing:
    http://dcabarle.smugmug.com/Sports/F...79119552_XXeHe

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    Re: New Proposed Delaware Release Plan

    Not a problem Dennis, it just gave me pause as to the workings in my brain.

    If that does not leave me open to a bunch of "comments" ,I don't know what does!!!

    Jim


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    Re: New Proposed Delaware Release Plan

    Jim,

    I have a question. Your plan is based on reservoir levels correct? What are the releases the powers to be (DRBC) are pushing for at 90% , 85%, 80% reservoir capacity? I seemed to remember a post you made describing the releases up to 90% capacity. But don't remember the release #s at 85%, 80% and below.

    COZ


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    Re: New Proposed Delaware Release Plan

    Hi COZ,

    The answer is, it depends.

    The release levels are going to be based on many factors. Reservoir level is one of them. Other factors are snowpack, time of year, Montague Target, natural inflows, etc.

    Ideally, in the most adaptive policy, the factors would all be considered on a daily basis and the releases adjusted. Practically, this is probably not needed, and the time segment is still being evaluated. (Weekly, Monthly, Seasonally, Yearly, etc.)

    The Coalitions complete release plan will be brought out for public review March 6th at the RFAC meeting.

    Jim


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    Re: New Proposed Delaware Release Plan

    Hi Fred,

    I did forget one thing about the Montague target. What is still on the table for discussion in the short term is to average the Montague Target on a weekly basis. This will help to alleviate the problems of erratic flows on the upper part of the river.

    I have explained how this would work in previous posts.

    This would help to keep Wallenpaupack releases from causing yo-yo release chanegs on the upper river. PPL generally only release Monday thru Friday for power production.

    Jim


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    Re: New Proposed Delaware Release Plan

    Thiis might be considered a small point, but I should point out to a previous poster that this new proposed plan is NOT "Jim's" plan, as I am sure he would admit. As Jim noted is his posts, there have been many inputs to what is currently on the table. Most of all, the work of Dr. Peter Kolesar (who spoke at the Day on the Delaware last August at the WBA) and his graduate students have, in my opinion, contributed more to our understanding of reservoir management than the total work since the reservoirs have been constructed. The Habitat modeling work, done under contract by the USGS, and used by Jim in his many many hours of computer work, will also provide insight into what advantage there is to the ecosystem given improved flows.
    What is needed now is the support of all folks who are interested in a new, improved flow regime. Note that a failure to move in this direction could result in reverting back to Revision 1...
    OM


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    Re: New Proposed Delaware Release Plan

    Just a quick question for Jim or OM. How valid is the data from the USGS habitat study post flood? The river has changed substantially.


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    Re: New Proposed Delaware Release Plan

    Hi Brachy,

    The USGS habitat model should still give us a good representation of the river system even though the flood did make some changes to the river.

    A couple of points:

    In the grand scheme of the river, I think most would be amazed at how much of the river is still the same or at least not changed significantly.

    The river topography has shifted and I think that the most likely outcome is that areas of certain habitat types moved to dfferent areas of the river. I think that the percentages of certain habitat types will still be about the same. For instance, the area directly above the 191 bridge in Hancock, has changed. The 300 yards above the bridge was a relativley uniform, wide shallow area of riffle. Described as "Shallow Fast Guild". This type of river is a big time bug factory. Now about half (PA side) has filled in with gravel and is exposed at flows below 700 or so. There is now a deeper faster channel on the NY side. My guess is that there is an area that was a fast deeper channel that filled in to create the opposite habitat.

    So, things changed for sure, but not as much as you may think.

    The USGS Habitat model is cetainly the best way we have to help make decisions about flows and releases with habitat as a criteria.

    Jim


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