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How much water, when, and how cold it should be will be examined by a revived DRBC committee

The upper river, as seen from the bridge in Lordville, N.Y. PHOTO BY MEG MCGUIRE
The upper river, as seen from the bridge in Lordville, N.Y. PHOTO BY MEG MCGUIRE

A rare bird is due to land in Trenton this Thursday -- an SEF.

Actually THE SEF -- Subcommittee on Ecological Flows.

Say, what?

If you're up to speed on the issues that the Delaware River Basin Commission works on, you'll not be surprised at a subcommittee of an advisory committee. In this case it's a subcommittee of the Regulated Flow Advisory Committee.

Don't be put off by the bureaucratese.

The SEF has an important task, especially for upriver folks.

Remember all those stories I wrote about the flow of the river? How complicated that issue is?

The four Delaware River states, New York City and the USGS Delaware River Master work cooperatively to make sure there's enough water in the river to keep it flowing at the U.S. Supreme Court-mandated flow of 1750 cubic feet per second measured, in theory, at Montague, N.J., but actually measured on the riverbank in Milford, Pa. 

And the flow is important for a couple of reasons: to make sure thirsty New York City folks don't drink too much of the water from the Delaware River headwater reservoirs; and that there's enough water to keep the infamous salt front at bay. That's the tip of where the salt water from the ocean (think, tides) reaches into the bay and river. When the flow is low, there's a risk of salt water entering the Philadelphia water supply, which is a bad thing.

Anyway, it took a huge amount of energy but there is now a new agreement among the four states and NYC and as part of that agreement, the SEF has been reconstituted.

Its job is to pay attention to the amount of water that's in the upper river, not just to maintain that stipulated flow, but to learn what amount of water  -- at what temperature -- is optimum for the river ecology.The focus upriver is mainly on trout, who like cold water, and which are such an important part of the economy of the upper river but also to figure out what's better for all the rest of the river critters, little and large. 

And some of those critters are the canoe/rafting/kayaking companies that line the river and that can't offer those rentals if the river is too low or too fast.

So, if all this information has whetted your appetite, the inaugural meeting is at 10:00 a.m. this Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018, at the Delaware River Basin Commission's headquarters, 25 Cosey Road, West Trenton, N.J.  The meetings are open to the public. If you have questions you can call the DRBC at (609) 883-9500 x205. You can check out the DRBC website (It's got TONS of useful information about this and other river matters.)

This is the resolution that created the SEF.

If you want to know more about the first order of business for the SEF, check out this link .

About Meg McGuire

Meg McGuire has been a journalist for 30 years in New York and Connecticut. She started in weekly newspapers and moved to full-time work in dailies 25 years ago. She knows about the tectonic changes in journalism firsthand, having been part of what was euphemistically called a "reduction in force" six years ago. Now she's working to find new ways to "do" the news as an independent online publisher of news about the Delaware River, its watershed and its people.

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