A DEP official said the agency has been responsible to local officials concerned about the water releases but needs to also also be mindful of the impacts on those who rely on the watershed for their water supply.
“DEP recognizes that fishing, boating and camping along the Delaware River is a major economic driver for the region,” said Adam Bosch, the spokeswoman. “Baseline releases from the city’s reservoirs have increased by four to nearly 10 times as much as they were two decades ago, helping to create and maintain the cold water fishery.”
Bosch added: “We have made these changes with input from stakeholders throughout the basin, and we are always looking to improve release protocols in ways that do not affect the reliability of the water supply for roughly 9.4 million New Yorkers.”
Every dollar spent in the region’s fishing haven is accompanied by another 61 cents spent en route to the location, according to the study. With $186 million now being spent on boating and fishing related activities outside the immediately impacted area, an additional $124 million would flow into the economy if the water releases were made more consistent.
Skelding explained the trout that thrive in the river prefer the cold water that comes from the dams. When dam water is not being released, the water in the river branches begins to warm up as it moves downstream, diminishing fishing opportunities in summer months. He said there is potential to extend a fishing season that now lasts two to three months to six months if there is greater cooperation from DEP.
“They choose to release almost all of the water from Cannonsville,” Skelding said. “They are very stingy with Pepacton.”
Delaware County Tourism Director James Thomson highlighted the significance of the new data by saying, “To me this study validates my feelings and I am more convinced than ever that we need to work with New York City DEP to find ways to protect what we have now and to indeed maximize the tourism potential of the Delaware River.”
Delaware County Economic Development Director, Glenn Nealis, observed that ensuring proper flows for boating and fishing each weekend may not be practical. But he added: “With the city’s cooperation, we could generate some significant economic benefits to the region, potentially exceeding a quarter of a billion dollars.”