The Upper Delaware Council (UDC) has invited an official with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NY DEP) to come and further explain why the DEC is dismissing the use of emergency sirens in the Upper Delaware River Corridor in the unlikely event of a dam failure.

NARROWSBURG, NY - The Upper Delaware Council (UDC) has invited an official with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NY DEP) to come and further explain why the DEC is dismissing the use of emergency sirens in the Upper Delaware River Corridor in the unlikely event of a dam failure.

NY DEP’s Deputy Commissioner Paul Rush made a presentation at the UDC office in Narrowsburg, Dec. 14, to discuss the agency’s plans to construct a hydroelectric plant at Cannonsville Reservoir.

Operation of the Cannonsvlle, on the West Branch and the Pepacton Reservoir on the East Branch of the Delaware River, north and east of Hancock, NY, directly impacts the level and flow rate of the main stem of the Delaware. The City maintains the reservoir system for its own water supply.  Excess water is released according to a schedule, meeting required targets dictated by the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC). The UDC keeps a wary eye on anything occurring on the Upper Delaware that may risk flooding on both sides of the river.

A $34 million 6-megawatt plant has been proposed on the Cannonsville Reservoir. Two,3-megawatt generators would be housed in a 4,400 square foot power house, with two hydroelectric turbines.

Design work is planned to start in 2020, with construction to get underway in 2023. The projected completion date is in the 2025-2026 time frame.

Schnabel Engineering Inc. (SEI) has been hired by the NY DEP to study and recommend procedures to improve the speed of downstream emergency alerts for the Cannonsville Reservoir.

Rush addressed a question about the establishment of outdoor sirens to allow an audible warning of hazardous incidents involving the dams. The suggestion is to model the sirens after those used successfully at the Gilboa Dam in Schoharie County, New York.

As noted in a letter from the UDC to Rush, dated Dec. 21, the UDC has contended that these sirens could be a supplemental tool of value to digital-based enhancements. This is particularly true in the rural Upper Delaware Corridor, which has challenges of reliable cellular and broadband service.

Laurie Ramie, UDC Executive Director, mentioned in the letter that Rush asserted that in exploring this concept,  county emergency management coordinators do not appear to be in favor of sirens, and would prefer to use other technologies.

In March 2018, NYC DEP Public Affairs Director Adam Bosch provided the last formal update to the UDC on the Emergency Public Notification System Improvements project. Bosch indicated at the time that SEI’s analysis was due to be done by the end of 2018.

The UDC letter asks that Rush made a follow-up presentation to highlight the findings of the SEI study when available and explain further the rationale for dismissing a siren system.

Pete Golod, UDC’s Resource Specialist, contacted the Scholarie Valley Emergency Center to inquire about the siren system in place. According to his report, referred to at the Dec. 18 UDC committee meeting, the NY DEP funded the system. Maintenance fees were about $20 a month. Golod said he believed about 20 sirens were in place. The sirens oscillate and in campground areas that have verbal commands like “run” or “seek high ground.”

Project water releases

Another aspect of the hydroelectric project which is of concern to the UDC, is the plan to curtail water releases from the Cannonsville into the West Branch, for approximately one month. During that time, the NY DEP would utilize the Neversink and Pepacton Reservoirs to pump water into the river to meet flow targets designated by the Flexible Flow Management Program.

Rush said the amount pumped would be about a third of what Cannonsville itself releases. He spoke of using storm water mitigation practices.

Golod cautioned that the UDC should keep on top of this due to the turbidity and sediments that would be caused by the pumping of water during the construction phase. Lower than normal releases are proposed in order to meet the minimum flow regime.  The concern expressed over this is the impact on macro and micro invertebrates as well as flow and fauna, and the threat to dwarf wedge mussels and other species.

The UDC meets on the first Thursday of the month at 7 p.m. at their office, at 211 Bridge St., Narrowsburg, NY.