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Fate of the Upper Delaware River Hangs in Balance

BUCKINGHAM TOWNSHIP -- Within 48 hours, the water levels on the upper Delaware River could plummet.

That's if an agreement can't be reached among New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New York City.

Just off Route 191 in northern Wayne County near the New York state line, a river guide gets ready to take fly fishermen onto the Delaware.

It's a big industry around here, enough to bring in folks from out-of-state who fish for cold water trout or take river trips.

By the end of the month, however, much of that business could be in jeopardy if Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York, New Jersey and New York City can't agree on how much water should be released from reservoirs upriver.

"If they can't agree, it's an ecological and environmental disaster, not just for the fishery for everything that depends on the river," said fishing guide Joe DeMalderis.

The Friends of the Upper Delaware River has been working to get an agreement in place by the end-of-month deadline. If there's no deal, the policy reverts back to something drawn up in the early 1980s.

"The river you're looking at right now might be 1/10 of the size on Thursday. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what that's going to mean to fish and bugs," said Jeff Skelding, executive director of The Friends of the Upper Delaware River.

"We shouldn't have to suffer for a problem those guys have making a decision," added Dan Plummer, also with the organization.

Not only does the wildlife and aquatic life depend on the river levels on the river, so do countless businesses like guides, fly shops and hotels and restaurants as well.

"No water in the river, no fishing to be had, myself and other guides that are with me, we have no income, plain and simple," said DeMalderis.

So far, New Jersey is asking for more access to water in the event of a drought and accuses New York City of failing to negotiate in good faith.

The deadline for the agreement is June 1.

6 comments

  • George

    Having grown up in NJ and now living in NYS, also worked for many years in the NYC watershed and an avid trout fisherman, I think I have a balanced perspective on this. The Delaware River water that naturally flows along the NJ-Pa border was taken from NJ and Pa in the 1960’s when the courts sided with NYC and allowed the reservoirs on the Delaware and it’s tributaries to be built for their use. NJ, Pa, and upstate NY fisherman and guides all ue the river for income and iincome whether they fish for trout, smallmouth bass, or walleye, At the time NYC used the water for their own use in NYC. Since NYC has been selling the surplus of water in their reservoirs to many other municipalities in the Hudson River valley that were never part of the original agreement. The city is making a profit on water that rightfully should be sent downriver to the other states. In addition, the underground aqueducts that carry the water to NYC have been leaking billions of gallons of water for the last thirty years or more because NYC has not done regular maintenance on them. These are very serious issues and NJ and Pa have finally decided that the time to correct this is now. I Believe that if NYC would just use the water for themselves and stop the leaking in the aqueducts there would be no need to withdraw more water and flows could continue as they currently are. However big time politics will always get in the way of common sense!

  • the answer

    The upper Delaware needs to be kept as it is, However these so-called “Guides”(mostly anyone who can afford a drift boat) have made fishing for the average joe a lot worse than it used to be. It was alot nicer in the early 80’s especially for wading fisherman.

  • Archie Beal

    Why can’t the river in level and discharge rate from the reservoirs remain the same. I don’t understand what the issue is here. We are not under flood conditions. So leaves it be.

  • Marvin

    New York and New Jersey, gee, hard to see why their governments can’t make an intelligent decision……..

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