What's Good for the River is Good for Us All

Some Delaware County residents look at the Delaware River and think of the trout that abound in its waters. Others think of the money that visitors spend when they arrive for aquatic recreation. Some think of the costly havoc the river and its tributaries wreak when they overflow their banks.

Upper Delaware Watershed tree root ballBut many residents agree that if they can counteract centuries of flooding, erosion and sedimentation in the Upper Delaware watershed, they will achieve a whole range of goals—protecting the river environment, boosting recreation and tourism, keeping infrastructure intact and keeping residents healthy and safe.

Those goals fit nicely with some of the Foundation’s recent priorities. “We have become increasingly interested in economic development,” says Patrick Doyle, Community Foundation Board chair. Discussing the river with community leaders during a visit to Delaware County in 2015, members of the Foundation’s Board and staff spotted a chance to make a real difference in a largely rural county that is seeking a road back to prosperity.

In 2016, the Foundation granted $25,000 to Delaware County’s Department of Watershed Affairs toward the “Below the Dam Stream Corridor Management Plan.” Produced by the Upper Delaware River Tailwaters Coalition (URDTC), a consortium of local governments and conservation and business groups, the plan will provide a detailed survey of the Delaware River watershed in Delaware County, below the Canonsville and Pepacton Reservoirs. Those two reservoirs supply drinking water to New York City and are also the source of the cold water releases that make the Upper Delaware a magnet for trout fishermen and boaters.

“For the first time ever, we’re going to get a good, science-based assessment of the condition of these streams,” says Jeff Skelding, executive director of Friends of the Upper Delaware River (FUDR), a coalition member. “Where are the points of vulnerability? Where are the high erosion areas? Where is a road or house threatened?”

When it’s completed in December 2017, the plan will also outline strategies for stabilizing and managing the streams in the future. With a comprehensive plan in hand, the URDTC should be better able to attract the funds needed to execute those strategies, says Molly Oliver, assistant to the commissioner at the Delaware County Department of Watershed Affairs.

One key to URDTC’s success so far is the way the effort has helped a diverse range of local stakeholders unite behind a common goal, Oliver says. “They probably have always had a lot of common ground, but now they’re able to focus on that and find solutions that work for everyone.”

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