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MARGARETVILLE -- A successful pilot test at its Cannonsville Reservoir has led the DEP to announce an expansion of its boating program to three more sites.

The Pepacton, Neversink and Schoharie reservoirs will be open for the program starting Memorial Day Weekend, New York City Department of Environmental Protection Deputy Commissioner Paul Rush said. He made the announcement at a media conference at the Catskill Watershed Corporation headquarters in Margaretville.

After the success of the three-year experiment at the Cannonsville, which is now permanent, the new sites will add 12,544 acres of public access for boating. The details will be announced at a later date.

Temporary and seasonal DEP-issued recreational tags will be distributed by certified private steam cleaning vendors for rowboats, canoes, kayaks, sculls and small sailboats with removable centerboards. The only restrictions are that the vessel be hand-carried and not motorized, Rush said. Currently only metal rowboats with boat tags for fishing purposes are allowed. All boats have to be steam cleaned to keep the bodies of water free of invasive species such as Zebra mussels that have caused problems in nearby waterways, said Rush.

The program represents "a true partnership between all parties," Rush said. It started after representatives from the communities expressed an interest in expanding recreational opportunities.

The pilot program was designed to address state and federal concerns. Not only was the water quality maintained but the program provided increased economic activity in the area, Rush said.

"This really fits into the mission of the CWC," executive director Alan Rosa said. This includes protecting and enhancing the communities in the watershed and protecting the environment. "This is a big deal" that was first discussed 15 years ago, he said.

"I see a lot of opportunity here," including creating new businesses and increased economic activity. His agency is providing $65,000 in 2012 to help with the undertaking.

Delaware County Board of Supervisors Chairman James Eisel said the increased recreational opportunities mean more economic development in the area, while maintaining water quality. Through this and other experiences, he has found "the city wants to work with upstate communities and help them in any way they can. If we succeed, so do they."

Placed into service in 1964, the Cannonsvile Reservoir, located at the western edge of Delaware County, holds 95.7 billion gallons of water at full capacity. The Pepacton Reservoir is also in Delaware County, along the southern edge of Catskill Park. It holds 140.2 billion gallons at full capacity and was placed into service 1955. The Schoharie Reservoir began operations in 1926 and holds 17.6 billion gallons at the intersection of Schoharie, Delaware and Greene counties. The Neversink started operations in 1954 and is located in Sullivan County. It can hold 34.9 billion gallons.

In addition to the reservoirs, the DEP plans to open and additional 7,500 acres of watershed land this year in Schoharie, Ulster, Greene and Delaware counties.

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