Monday, October 02, 2006

River rises...slowly falls

NJ Youth Corps members take delight in 2-mile river trip to Hendricks Island during the September 23 river cleanup. Their smiles changed to furrowed brows at the sight of the glacial piles of trash infested flotsam & jetsam that awaited them on the island.


CALL TO BOATERS - WE NEED HELP! .......It looks like conditions will be favorable for the river cleanup this Saturday. I am doing my best to intervene with the river gods and goddesses to lower the water about a foot, and bring a sunny day for folks who are coming out to make our beautiful river even more beautiful by attacking the blight of trash and litter that degrades the Delaware River.

The Delaware River rose over a foot-and-a-half at the Riegelsville gage on September 30, which was scheduled to be the second '06 river cleanup. Conditions were marginal at best that day, to the point that we may have cancelled anyway. Now it's looking like October 7 will turn out to be a much better day in the important ways.

The river has flat-lined after falling back down to 5.74' and that is -- as always -- due to the higher than normal flows in many upstream tributaries. Once again the Poconos received most of the precipitation, and the Lehigh River being the second largest tributary in flow and watershed size (Schuylkill River #1), exerts a profound influence on the Delaware in oh-so-many ways, and not usually in healthy ways.

Right now the Army Corps is blasting water from FE Walter Reservoir, a flood control dam situated a few miles upstream of Whitehaven, PA, at a rate of 1300 cubic feet per second, an increase over the previous three days of between 700 and 1000 cfs continuous releases.

The NYC reservoirs are near capacity (98%). If and when the agreement to keep the reservoirs at or below 80% is approved by all parties that will change.

On the Jersey side the Flatbrook, Paulinskill and Pequest are flowing slightly higher than normal and the Musconetcong River isn't even canoeable at 1.74.' On the PA side the Tohickon is falling back to normal low levels, and the Lackawaxen River, Bushkill Creek and Brodhead Creek are running higher than the seasonal mean, but slowly coming back down.

All this means that the Delaware River will cease flatlining as soon as the upper watershed streams fall, and it will fall even more when the Army Corps closes the gates at the FE Walter Dam.

The Delaware River Basin Commission's monthly hydrologic report summarizes rainfall data for stations near the river at Montague, Trenton and Wilmington. Unfortunately this river-centric data set does not tell the true story as it shows Trenton with the highest total. The upper basin received much more rain since January 1 according to NWS data. For example the Mt. Pocono station records 12.63" total rainfall above the yearly average so far this year (about 5" more than Trenton on the Delaware).

The great news is that we could have been - but weren't - hammered by 2 or 3 big storms that were pushed to the northeast to pound the British Isles and maritime Canada.

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