Saturday, December 26, 2009

On the Rise...

Creeks in the lower Delaware River watershed are rising out of their banks with more rain to come and that speaks to the fact that they had more snow on the ground than many areas upriver from the tidal zone.

The NWS has a FLOOD WARNING issued for the Brandywine, White Clay, S. B. Rancocas, and Cooper to name just a few. The lower Neshaminy at Langhorne was surging for flood stage but that suddenly began to drop so the snow melt might be finished and the rain is beginning to taper off. The Brandywine at Chadds Ford is already approaching flood stage.

The Delaware River at Riegelsville is just beginning to rise and running above normal but not by that much. However the Lehigh River is coming up quickly and that will push the Delaware up overnight but not to 20 feet (22 feet is beginning of flood stage). Piedmont tribs like the Wickecheoke, Locatong and Tohickon are rising rapidly as well and these will impact the river below Frenchtown.

It looks like the aforementioned creeks and rivers that are subject to the flood warning will have a rough night.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Speaking of Floods...

As mentioned a few weeks back, it seems like the watershed of the Delaware River is primed for spring flooding. That was before the big nor'easter that dumped between 6 inches and 2 feet of snow. Fortunately the heavier amounts were in the lower watershed.

A lot of moisture is locked up in the landscape and the equivalent of a few inches of rain sits on the land in the form of snow.

Recipe for a Winter Flood
Ingredients: Saturated soil; generous amount of snow cover; streams running at or above normal; wetlands, ponds and reservoirs filled (to taste). Vigorously stir in a rainstorm and allow to rise overnight.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ice Man Commeth...

I've managed to get out on the water at least once per week so far this cold water paddling season. Pine Barrens and Delaware River tributaries. It looks like more sustained cold weather is headed to the region so every day on the river is precious. The cutoff point is around 38 deg but that's with sun and no wind, and on shallower not too difficult streams to reduce chance of sustained immersion.

It's a great time of year to be on a swift moving creek.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Myth busting...

The DRBC today released its report on the role that the reservoirs played in the recent three Delaware River floods. I haven't had time to digest it but the Delaware River Basin Commission's interagency study group concluded that the reservoirs played at best, a minor roll.

Their conclusion is not news to me. I've instinctively known this to be true and have spent years gathering data and anecdotal information to help understand the issue. What has been most distressing is having to watch the myth that the floods were largely man-made and caused by mismanagement of the three drinking water supply reservoirs located in upstate New York. The "reservoirs did it" myth took root like Japanese Knotweed and become a pervasive belief among residents of the river valley. The DRBC and others did not effectively respond to the myth makers' emotional-based narrative.

This is a timely topic because now that the ground is saturated, the coming winter freeze will lock in this background condition and create a higher flood threat for 2010. Flooding along the Delaware is an infinitely complex topic. It's simple and satisfying to believe that the floods will stop if only the powers that be manage the reservoirs.

That myth is more comforting than the terrifying truth that floods are random acts of nature.

The truth is that flooding is natural, desirable and beneficial for the river and its complex ecology. Above all, flooding is inevitable. Only a fool would live on a floodplain believing they can do so without consequence, if only the reservoirs were kept below 80% capacity. Unfortunately, there are many who believe this and they are no friends of the river.

There are at least 4 distinct types of floods, each with its own set of background conditions. And that's the beginning point for the book of Delaware River floods. I can't keep my eyes open so it will have to be written another day.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Riverkeeper's Blog...

Maya Van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper has a new blog that anyone interested in the river and its watershed will want to bookmark. It's a hardcore issue-oriented blog. You'll find the link on my list of river related sites.

One thing that stood out right away is she (or her IT?) managed to make the blog look like a website, a look that I would like to emulate. Please visit Maya's blog and sign-on as a fellow "River Lover"

A new independent film about gas drilling and hydrofracturing is being released! GASLAND is its title and it was done by a young filmmaker from the Upper Delaware Watershed who traveled across the country to investigate the issue in places like Colorado. Hydrofracuring is taking place in the Upper Delaware Watershed in PA and NY as well as the Upper Susquehanna Watershed in PA and many other locations within what is known as the Marcellus Shale Formation.

You can read about the issue in some of my earlier posts or visit the Riverkeeper blog. Another excellent source of information (and great layout) about gas drilling is Bluedaze.

Check out the Delaware Riverkeeper website for information about PA DEP hearings on gas drilling...coming up this week!