Friday, September 29, 2006

Once again...

Operation River Bright will take place October 7

River cleanup vols will pass by the Nockamixon cliffs between Riegelsville & Upper Black Eddy.

The postponement of the September 30 date may turn out to be a smart move afterall as the storm last night dumped heavy rain on the Poconos.

The gage at Riegelsville is at 4.63 this morning and heading upwards. Pocono streams such as the Bushkill, Brodhead and Lackawaxen are all still rising.

Looking forward to a run of chilly but mostly dry weather this weekend and into next week.

From the Pocono Record:
Reservoirs in N.Y. plan immediate drawdown
Agreement expected to mitigate Delaware floods
Dan Berrett
Pocono Record Writer
September 28, 2006
WEST TRENTON, N.J. — The governing body that monitors the Delaware River agreed on Wednesday to immediately lower water levels in the three upstate New York reservoirs that feed the river.

The Delaware River Basin Commission authorized a "trigger mechanism" that would be in effect from now until May 31, 2007. It would mandate regular releases from the Cannonsville, Pepacton and Neversink reservoirs when their combined storage levels reach 80 percent.

Keeping the reservoirs below 80% will mean a few inches less of floodwaters, which could be meaningful for some property owners. Unfortunately too many people operate under the illusion that flooding can be controlled or stopped by better management of the water supply reservoirs.

There is only one indisputable truth that we can count on:
Floodplains flood.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Operation River Bright #1

Despite threatening weather at the start, the river cleanup went forward. More details to follow.

The photo shows members of the New Jersey Youth Corps and National Canoe Safety Patrol off-loading trash taken off of Hendrick Island by a homemade canoe barge.

For more pics go here.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Delaware River schedule


Where: Bulls Island State Park boat launch

When: Registration is 8:30 AM this Saturday (23rd) at Bulls Is. We aim to be done and eating pizza by 1:30 PM

What to expect: Wet feet. This is a RAIN or SHINE event!

What to bring: your own equipment (PFDs must be worn while on or in the water)

What we provide: Snacks (granola bars), bottled water, work gloves (choice of rubber or cotton), trash bags, lunch (pizza)

Strongly Recommended: Sturdy shoes, long pants, extra clothing

I am 98% sure that the weather and river level will allow the September 23 river cleanup to proceed (knock wood). The Delaware rose to 9’ last weekend and we need the river to fall at or below 5’. It needs to drop another foot or so, and it almost certainly will given the rain-free forecast. There is a slight chance of showers in the Saturday forecast but this event will go as planned unless we have a monsoon!

PLEASE NOTE: Right now it looks like this Saturday’s cleanup will be more than adequately staffed. HOWEVER we are lacking volunteers for the September 30 cleanup between Riegelsville and Upper Black Eddy – a more traditional downriver cleanup.

This Saturday we plan to launch at Bulls Island SP and work the shorelines of NJ & PA down to Hendricks Island. A trash dumpster, which was provided by the Delaware Canal State Park (PA DCNR), will be located at Virginia Forrest recreational area, which is adjacent to the top of the island. Most of us will be taking out there. FYI: Virginia Forrest has toilet facilities, so folks can take a bathroom break as needed.

Please plan to be at the registration on time so that you can do the shuttle and be back on time for a brief safety and logistics talk before launching (planned for 10:15 AM). Shuttle arrangements will be made on the fly. Those of you with vans or larger vehicles can hopefully bring folks back up to the put-in.

Details about the September 30 river cleanup will be posted next week.

Friday, September 15, 2006

September 16 River Clean-up Postponed

Sharon Maclean studies the terrain on Lynn Island durng a trash reconnaisance canoe trip. The recent flood caused dramatic changes to the riverscape.


Saturday, September 23 Bulls Island to Hendricks Island
Saturday, September 30 Riegelsville to Upper Black Eddy

Drat! Another rainout...

The last Operation River Bright to be postponed was the one unfortunately scheduled for the week after Hurricane Ivan hit, causing the first of what would turn out to be a spate of three consecutive record setting floods.

This is a mere postponement due to a 2-foot + rise in the Delaware River (Riegelsville gage), which was at 4' before the spike. It's already above 6' and looks like it will peak between 7' and 8'.

What can I say? It's been that kind of year weather-wise. And the Poconos got another monsoon. Streams up there are extremely high and that has impacted the Lower Delaware. The Brodhead Creek went from 200 CFS to 5,000 CFS in less than 24 hours yesterday. On the NJ side the Paulinskill, Pequest and Musconetcong saw big spikes too, although not as dramatic as the Brodhead or Bushkill.

When I went to bed last night I really had no idea that we'd need to postpone this Saturday's cleanup because of high water. Anything above 5' becomes problematic and 6' is out of the question, and for what we have planned on Hendricks Island (involving barges and ropes) above 4.5 would be a problem. It's not that the river is unsafe at 6' but sending people repeatedly into the river banks to collect trash would be irresponsible (strainers).

Fortunately we have quite a talented team of volunteers raring to go so hopefully folks can be flexible with their schedules.

I have proposed the Hendricks/Stockton river cleanup (originally scheduled for the 16th) be put off until next week (23rd) and the Riegelsville - Milford cleanup will be held Sept. 30.

A land-based cleanup may be scheduled if the high water problems persist. But I am optimistic that the Delaware will come back down to a nice level based on the forecast for the coming week.

PS: Sunday is the American Canoe Association - Delaware Valley Division picnic and annual meeting at Round Valley (anyone interested in joining us please contact me or GO HERE.

Thursday, September 14, 2006


WE NEED YOU - For the War on Trash
Saturday September 16 and Saturday, September 23
Rain or Shine

Project River Bright was created in the late 1990's by Carrie Brownholtz, formerly of Telford PA, for the Delaware River Greenway Partnership. I helped out as a safety officer for all of those events, which from a safety standpoint, were most decidely understaffed. Carrie left for Oklahoma to live with the Delaware Indians and I took over River Bright in 2003. My first cleanup was wiped out by Hurricane Ivan, first of three consecutive flood events.

Two years ago Major George Paffendorf (US Army Ret.) of the NJ Youth Corps came up with the moniker "Operation River Bright." I liked the military sounding version of River Bright, because in a way we are waging war on trash, and despite our best efforts there has never been more ugly trash in this beautiful river, thanks to the July '06 flood and -- lest we forget -- the sources of the trash, which would be the people who live near and/or recreate in the river and its urbanized tributaries.

The untold story of the recent flood is the incredible influx of manmade trash that has been carried into the river from storm drains, streets, roadside ditches and tributary streams from places as far away as Hackettstown, NJ, Hancock NY, and Lehighton, PA. Trash from everywhere upstream in the watershed ends up down here in the Delaware River, and what doesn’t get hung up here continues down to the bay.

I suspect that the existence of this trash in and along the river and its islands presents a greater threat to the ecological health of the river than any of the other usual suspects including wasterwater treatment facilities and polluted runoff. In particular, plastic trash is now found everywhere, especially beverage containers, but also tarps, and construction and silt fences.

According to an article that appeared in Waste Management World, each day in the US more than 60 million plastic water bottles are thrown away. Most end up in landfills or incinerators, and millions litter our streets, parks and waterways. Anyone who travels down the Delaware River will not have any difficulty believing these statistics.

Over the next two Saturdays heavily armed armadas will sweep the river banks and islands between Riegelsville and Stockton looking for trash and manmade debris. Our number one priority will be anything that is plastic. But we also expect to collect propane and gasoline tanks, styrofoam objects, tires, glass containers and odd objects such as dolls, bowling balls, and toilet seats, etc.

The Operation River Bright is an American Canoe Association santioned event. The cleanups would not be viable without the help of the National Canoe Safety Patrol - Lower Delaware Chapter. In particular, George and Leona Fluck of Piney Paddlers fame have provided invaluable service to these cleanups. This year, George has put considerable time into the planning of special methods to get trash from Hendricks Island to the dumpster at Virginia Forrest Recreational access. The implementation of these plans should prove to be interesting, since it involves setting up zip lines and creating a barge or two.

A report on this weekend's Hendrick Island cleanup will appear early next week.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Go with thee Flo...

The above photo taken yesterday shows one of the target areas on Hendrick Island for the upcoming September 16 river cleanup.

... All the models have Florence heading east by the weekend, whacking the Canadian Maritimes and sparing us. Forecasters are hopeful, all say remain vigilant, because the projected path of Flo is based on... air?

AccuWeather is even giving the odds on Flo, foretelling a 90%/10% chance that she will go east. This morning it was 75/25. Still, that 10% is reason to be concerned.

If the forecast for the next several days turns out to be true, river will be going back down to 4' and conditions will be ideal for a river cleanup or two (cleaunp information and trash photos will appear over the next several posts in this Journal).

Dave Soete of the Upper Delaware Council forwarded this bit of promising news. Read this article, particularly if you are in the floodplain of the Delaware River.

Alliance has plan to manage dam releases Columbia students balance water supply and fisheries By TOM KANE UPPER DELAWARE RIVER - There’s a solution to the problem of water releases from the three regional reservoirs that supply water to New York City, and it’s relatively easy to carry out. So says Peter Kolesar, a river valley resident and a Columbia University professor. “We have a plan that will save businesses and homes along the river from flooding, and will satisfy fishermen without limiting the city’s water supply,” Kolesar said. The plan is an end-product of an alliance, formed last January, of Trout Unlimited, the Nature Conservancy and the Delaware River Foundation, Columbia University professors and students from the business and engineering schools. Kolesar and his students have produced several computer models on the releases issue and come up with, they think, a solution. The problem centers on the practices of the city’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which controls the management of the dams and reservoirs that feed water into the city. “The city is very concerned that the drought of the century may start at any time and, if they aren’t careful about how much water they release, there will not be enough water to satisfy the principal reasons for the dams and reservoirs≤to supply water for the people and businesses of the city,” Kolesar said. Kolesar and his alliance assert that the northern section of the Upper Delaware gets short changed in the way releases are carried out. “There are two parties that benefit from the current release policy: the city and the down-basin states,” he said. Kolesar defined the down-basin states as those areas along the lower river in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. The release method his group is championing would smooth out the releases by releasing more water during a wet summer. “When you have more water, release more water,” he said. “When you have less water, release less water. Make more effective use of the Delaware’s water by spilling less. This also helps mitigate flooding. Don’t operate the river like a faucet. Maintain smooth transitions between water levels. Keep it simple.” This method, which he calls the Seasonal Adaptive Release Policy, can bring major improvement for the Upper Delaware fishery and ecology at little or no increase in risk to the city or down-basin users of Delaware River water. If it were followed, it could greatly benefit the fishing economy of Delaware County, NY, because it could extend the fishing season, he said. “This policy protects the fishery in wet summers by releasing more water than the current policy, but in wet summers adequate water is available to do this,” he said. “In wet summers, the adaptive release policy creates modest additional reservoir voids in the late summer and early fall that can offer some flood mitigation.” The policy allows the release of more water for the ecology because it spills less, he said. Kolesar admits that the details of the policy have to be worked out by all concerned groups. “The city and New York State are actively considering this plan, which has merit,” said Robert Tudor, Assistant Director of the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC). “It is intriguing that this plan focuses on three main concerns: the city water supply, the fisheries and the downstream communities. We’ve had three 100-year floods in two years, so we need to examine releases and spills. The technical work has yet to be done so all the parties to the 1954 Supreme Court decision will be involved in this decision.” “The main obligation of the DEP is to ensure the ample supply of water to the city,” said Charles Sturcken, director of public affairs. “Since we have had so many unusual floods recently, it is important that we re-examine the releases policy. In the next few months, we will join with the Delaware River Basin Commission and the River Master to consider these suggestions.” Sturcken said that in May of 2007, there would be a review of the releases policy, which is routinely done every few years.

I have read that there would potentially be a 2.5 feet lowering of the floodwaters if the reservoirs were voided enough to create more capacity and still not jeopordize water supplies. Responsible reservoir management would be a major benefit for most flood-prone property owners along the river for the 30' flood, but that would not prevent a major flood from occuring. Even with a 2.5 drop that could result from lower reservoir levels, a flood like the April '05 or certainly the 1955 event would still innundate the usual places (New Hope, Yardley, Byram, Harmony Station etc).

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Which forces will steer Florence?

The Delaware River at Riegelsville has fallen below 5' again - praise be! Tribs are falling back to seasonal norms.

I feel like this journal has become a weather blog with the hurricane season controlling the subject matter. There are only about 6 or 7 weeks left until we slip by the tropical depression making season, and into the ice and snow.

AccuWeather provides an excellent graphic depicting Florence and the very different paths it may take depending on how the current high pressure system plays out.

AccuWeather Meteorologist Lisa Wieser says:
".....there are two scenarios which could play out. The first is the one most of us are probably hoping for, that Florence will curve away from the East Coast. For this scenario to occur, the high pressure system in the central Atlantic would have to weaken as it shifts eastward during the weekend. The clockwise flow around the high would curve Florence to the northeast before it reaches the coast early next week. At the same time, an upper-level trough is expected to move across the Great Lakes region into the Northeast early next week. This trough's counter-clockwise flow would help keep Florence away from the coast as well. The second scenario, the more dangerous situation, involves the Atlantic high strengthening and expanding westward over the weekend. This would send Florence on a nearly due-west track right into the coast early next week, and slow the eastward progress of the upper-level trough which would push Florence away."

If Florence stays off the coast and heads out into the Atlantic we will have good conditions for Operation River Bright on September 16. If it heads to the coast....well, we may be doing a land-based cleanup of river accesses and parks.

Stay tuned.....Florence will show her hand this weekend.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Rain Rain go away, come again December

NWS is predicting 1 - 2 " rain today and tonight along with flood watches for creeks in the lower Delaware River Basin (Brandywine, Assunpink and others).

All the streams and rivers basin-wide are running a bit higher than the daily median discharge. The Delaware River at Riegelsville is about 1.5' higher than it was prior to Ernesto. It must fall back to below 5' for the upcoming river cleanups! It may well do that so long as Tropical Depression 6 does not become a hurricane. (Note: As of 11:oo a.m. #6 has become Tropical Storm Florence)

AccuWeather seems to think this may occur.
"The stage is set for the biggest hurricane so far this year. The actors know their parts. Very warm water from the central Atlantic to the Bahamas will play a big role. Another lead character is the existing westerly flow across a segment the central Atlantic. Its part in the play will be short as a big high takes center stage to the north. Factoring all these elements together, there is a strong likelihood that Tropical Depression 6 will be a Category 2 or 3 hurricane later this week."

Yesterday I was joined by Sherry Maclean and Eric Sween for a sweet run down the Musconetcong River between Hampton and Bloomsbury. The Musky was just high enough at 2.25'. It is a bit scratchy at that level, but hey, Sherry and I were in Erics fiberglass barge. We chased a pair of osprey down the river below Asbury. Much solitude and seclusion on this stretch of water. Restores the soul.

The US Congress is coming back into session this week and we are hoping they get the Musconetcong National Wild and Scenic River designation bill out to the president's desk befoe the end of the month. (See July 24 journal entry for more details)

Stay dry!

Friday, September 01, 2006

Deja vu all over again...NOT

The above photo was sent by Leona Fluck. The Waste Management dumpster got stuck on a gravel bar somewhere near Minisink Island (Leona correct me if i got that wrong) in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. Photo was taken during a routine patrol of the National Canoe Safety Patrol - Lower Delaware Chapter. The NCSP is a vital partner for the river cleanup 'Operation River Bright' scheduled for September 16 and 23. The National Park Service is making plans to move the dumpster before Ernesto sends it down to Trenton.

Wait and see...

Forecasters are singing in unison about Ernesto's path through our region enroute to the wilds of upstate PA and western NY (Susquehanna Basin). Rainfall predictions seem to be in sync, most caution that "rainfall amounts could be higher in certain areas."

AccuWeather's map shows the entire non-tidal Delaware River watershed to be within the 2 - 4 inch range; below Philly it says 6 to 8 inches. The Catskill headwaters might get 1 - 3 inches.

If that scenario holds -- more rain to the south and less to the northeast -- we will probably avoid major flooding. The water level in most Delaware River tribs has been falling. In the lower Delaware tribs are still faily low. I wouldn't even ty to put a canoe in the Musconetcong (1.67 at Bloomsbury), ditto for the Pequest, and the Paulinskill is barely high enough to paddle). On the PA side the Tohickon is seasonally low.

Further upstream the Lehigh River has been running a higher than normal, largely because the Army Corps has been releasing from FE Walter dam (a flood control reservoir). PP&L has been letting water out at Lake Wallenpaupack (and making $ on electricity generated) to make room for the storm. Pocono streams (Brodhead and Bush Kill) are running a little high for this time of year.

I don't see the Delaware River flooding unless we get double the amount of rain predicted (8+ inches) over most of the upper watershed. Tribs are more vulnerable as the rain will be coming down in a short period of time. The predicted outcome could be so much worse - let's hope and pray it holds, or better yet, that Ernesto falls well short of its reputation.

For those of you who (like yours truly) are compelled to check stream flows on a regular basis, the Mohawk Canoe Club has a handy one-stop page of river gauges for paddlers. It includes many streams outside the Delaware River Basin. Check it out. The Mohawkers are another important partner on the river cleanup, which by the way is sponsored by the Delaware River Greenway Partnership. Check out their website, lots of good information on Lower Delaware River projects.

We may be working up a contingency plan for Operation River Bright because high water would make a river cleanup unsafe. For now it's wait and see what happens over the next 24 hours and assess the long range forecasts.

I will be back tomorrow with an update on river conditions around the watershed.