A week ago today, the water temperature on the West Branch of the Delaware River was 48 degrees. By Tuesday, the high had climbed to 61.
That’s a startlingly quick increase. But that’s what happens when the streams are running shallow, as they are this rainless spring, and you get a couple of hot days, as we did over the weekend.
So far, it’s not an emergency. Temperatures in the low 60s are fine for trout, and the early-season fishing has been, by all accounts, spectacular.
But the amounts of water being released from New York City’s water supply reservoirs on the east and west branches of the Delaware and the Neversink River are meager, and not especially likely to grow.
Current regulations generally require fairly small releases in April and May. Most Aprils, the rivers are plenty deep, anyway, with snow melt. But that’s not the case this year.
The West Branch, for example, normally runs at well over 1,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) in mid-April. This week, it consisted only of the 175 cfs released from the dam that forms Cannonsville reservoir.
A few more hot spells on the bony Catskills tailwaters in April and May could cause problems for the Delaware’s famous trout fishing.
Dan Plummer, executive director of Friends of the Upper Delaware River, said New York City is being especially tight with water from the reservoirs in the Delaware watershed because its reservoirs to the east are still dirty from last summer’s tropical storms.
Top New York City officials scheduled a conference call with fishery advocates on Wednesday to discuss river flows, but Plummer said he was warned not to expect good news.
“We’re not even in a drought warning. This is all about water quality,” Plummer said, adding that the city was responsive last summer when extreme heat threatened trout habitat.
And while New York trout fishers wonder about the immediate future of the Catskills fisheries, decisions about its long-term future are also being made — behind closed doors. New York City, New York state, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware have been negotiating a new set of rules governing releases from the reservoirs. The current rules expire May 31.
Clarke Rupert, a spokesman for the Delaware River Basin Commission, said the parties have reported progress. Plummer had no information on how the new rules could affect water levels in the rivers.
So, as always on the Delaware, how things go will depend on both man and nature. Let’s hope we get some rain in the short run, and some river-friendly release rules in the long run.
Morgan Lyle’s commentary appears regularly in The Daily Gazette. Reach him at [email protected]
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