Economic activity throughout a region known as a fishermen’s paradise — the west and east branches of the Delaware River — could be greatly expanded if the New York City agency that controls the watershed system increased releases from the Pepacton and Cannonsville reservoirs, according to a new study.
That booster would be no small drop in the bucket, said the study, and would also have a positive impact on real estate values.
The research was financed with help from the Delaware County Industrial Development Agency and the Upper Delaware Council, and was conducted with the assistance of Shepstone Management Co.
The study concluded that the value of the cold water fishery as both a boating and fishing resource could be enhanced by $274 million “with more consistent cold water releases” from the two dams controlled by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection. A total of $71 million out of that projected increase would be realized through increases in second home real estate values, while the other $203 million would come from expanded economic activity in the region.
The reservoirs are part of the watershed network that supplies an estimated 1.2 billion gallons of drinking water daily to some 9 million people. The watershed is the largest unfiltered water supply source in the nation.
Jeff Skelding, executive director of Friends of the Upper Delaware River, said more frequent releases of water from the two dams could significantly extend the fishing season along the west and east branches of the Delaware River, a sporting activity that generates significant revenue for businesses and towns throughout the region.
Skelding said the water release practices of DEC have been the focus of “ongoing discussions for years,” and while there has been some progress, “there could be more water released at the right times.”
The study, Skelding said, should help to propel the discussion because it provides for the first time a quantification of just how valuable fishing and recreation are to local economies and to the area’s real estate market.