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Paddlers Win Class III Mongaup Releases

Posted: 05/19/2004
by Kevin Colburn

Over the past few years, the Kayak and Canoe Club of New York's Lauren Cook has been championing an effort to improve the recreational benefits of the Mongaup River in New York State.  Several days ago the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued an order granting the paddling community scheduled releases at two-turbine flows which many paddlers prefer to one-turbine flows.  Beginning this year, the Mongaup now will feature scheduled releases at both flows rather than only featuring one-turbine flows as it has in the past.  This FERC decision comes as a response to a recent request by the KCCNY, and is based on years of consistent advocacy by KCCNY and AW. 

 

These efforts to improve the Mongaup's recreational values would not be possible without the work of  Harlow "Ken" Fischman who was instrumental in the relicensing of the Mongaup in 1993-1995.  As the FERC order put it: "Prior to issuance of the license, the Rio Project (Mongaup) did not generate on weekends, nor did the licensee allow access for whitewater boating.  In the licensing proceeding, it was determined that the licensee should provide weekend whitewater boating opportunities below the project."  Thanks to the foresight of Ken and others who were involved in the relicensing, KCCNY and AW had the flexibility to improve the management of the River.   

 

Specifically, the Director of FERC ordered: 

 

(1)  The licensee shall schedule two-turbine releases during the 2004 recreation season on one weekend day a month from June through October.  The licensee shall inform the public when these releases are scheduled on the established telephone hotline which it updates on or before the Wednesday prior to the release.  The licensee shall file a listing of the scheduled one and two-turbine releases with the Commission by June 1, 2004. 

 

(2)  The licensee shall monitor usage and file a report by January 31, 2005, which includes the number of whitewater boaters on weekend days for both one-turbine and

two-turbine flow releases from June through October 31 of each year. The report shall also include: (1) a discussion of the adequacy of the timing of the flow releases to serve the needs of the boaters; (2) an evaluation of the impacts to public safety on the Mongaup River from the Rio Dam to the confluence with the Delaware River; (3) a discussion of what adjustments in project operation may be made to ensure the needed flows; and, (4) evidence of consultation with the agencies including copies of comment letters and responses to comments.  If the results of the report indicate that the two-turbine releases are possible and are meeting the needs of the public, the Commission reserves the right to require two-turbine releases on a permanent basis.  If the licensee cannot provide the flows pursuant to the established schedule, it should notify the public as soon as practical using the established hotline and shall file notification with the Commission no later than 10 days after the schedule release.  This notification shall include the reasons for the change and any alternative dates for the release.

 

It is now time to CELEBRATE, and go paddle the Mongaup!  Responsible and significant attendence at these releases will ensure their future.  Please thank Lauren Cook for his phenomenal efforts on the Mongaup.  Working with Lauren on this projecct has been a real pleasure for the AW staff, and he is an invaluable asset to the paddling community.

 

THANKS LAUREN!

 

 

Check out more about the KCCNY at:   http://www.kccny.com/

 

The entire FERC order is included below for those interested:

 

Prior to issuance of the license, the Rio Project (Mongaup) did not generate on weekends, nor did the licensee allow access for whitewater boating.  In the licensing proceeding, it was determined that the licensee should provide weekend whitewater boating opportunities below the project.  Article 401 of the license accordingly established a schedule for the release of whitewater flows on one day every other weekend during the April 15 to October 31 boating season.  The lower Mongaup has Class III (intermediate-level) rapids. Out of concern for the safety of novice boaters, Article 401 requires that the whitewater-specific releases be made from only one of the two equally-sized project turbines. For time periods not covered by Article 401, the licensee operates the project using one or both turbines, depending on the amount of water available. 

 

Article 408, as amended, states that the licensee, in consultation with the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC), the National Park Service (NPS), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the American Whitewater Affiliation (AWA), the Kayak and Canoe Club of New York (Club), and the Upper Delaware Council (UDC), shall monitor recreation use on the Mongaup River downstream of Rio dam to determine the numbers of users and types of activities occurring, the adequacy of timing of the flow releases, the adequacy of project recreation facilities, and an evaluation of public safety issues.  Monitoring studies were to be conducted for every year for four years (1999, 2000, 2001, and 2002).  The monitoring reports shall describe the number

 

of whitewater boaters on weekend days for both one-turbine and two-turbine flow releases from April 1 through October 31 of each year.  The licensee shall file the monitoring report for Commission approval on or before January 31 of the next calendar year for each of the four years that studies are conducted.  The report shall include: (1) a discussion of the feasibility of predicting flows based upon water level estimates; (2) a discussion of how far in advance it is feasible to provide the telephone information once the water flow predictions are made; (3) a discussion of the adequacy of the timing of the flow releases to serve the needs of the boaters; (4) an evaluation of the impacts to public safety on the Mongaup River from the Rio Dam to the confluence with the Delaware River; (5) a discussion of what adjustments in project operation may be made to provide the needed flows, and (6) evidence of consultation with the agencies including copies of comment letters and responses to comments.  If the results of the monitoring activity indicate a need to further evaluate changing project operation to provide for scheduled two-turbine releases to improve downstream recreation, the Commission reserved the right to require such changes, after notice and opportunity for hearing.

 

LICENSEE'S FILING

 

Pursuant to article 408, Mirant filed its 2002 monitoring reports on recreational use of the Mongaup River downstream of the project. 

 

During 2002, there were no reported safety incidents, nor were there any reported conflicts between whitewater boating and other recreational uses of the river.  The licensee states that due to the events of September 11, 2001, which limited access to the site, and the drought emergency declared by the Delaware River Basin Commission and the NYSDEC, several releases were cancelled.  The response, however, to the remaining releases was favorable with an average of 40 users per release.  The licensee further states that it recognizes anglers use the area, but does not monitor this use.  It believes the impact of scheduled releases on fishing activities is minimal because the four-hour period on the specific weekends does not coincide with prime fishing times.  Lastly, the licensee states that it is not able to predict flows because of the weather conditions, unregulated flows feeding the Rio Reservoir, and power demands on the system.

 

CONSULTATION

 

The licensee sent copies of the reports to Club, the NYSDEC, the NPS, the FWS, the AWA, and the UDC.  In a letter dated October 15, 2002, the NPS states that there were three incidents reported, but none were attributed to any release on the Mongaup River.  The Sparrowbush Fire Department states that there were no reported calls associated with the releases.  In general, the river users were pleased with the releases, but continued to request scheduled two-turbine releases.  The Club also provided

 

comments encouraging additional releases.  In a letter dated April 11, 2003, UDC states that it remains concerned about safety and requests the licensee wait until the NYSDEC completes its Unit Management Plan for the Mongaup Valley Wildlife Management area to address safety issues, multiple use, and protection of natural resources, particularly bald eagle habitat. 

 

On June 5, 2003, the Commission issued a public notice of this filing.  Comments were filed by the Club which reiterated the concerns expressed in its comments to the licensee on the report.

 

DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION

 

            The purpose of the amendment to article 408 and the additional monitoring requirements was to determine if the whitewater scheduled releases should be altered based on the needs of the public and the impact on the resources.  From 1999 through 2002, the licensee has monitored the whitewater releases to determine if the releases are meeting the needs of the public, whether other recreational uses are impacted, and whether any safety incidents have been reported related to these releases.  During this time period, there have been no safety incidents reported related to the scheduled releases or any additional unscheduled releases. 

 

The licensee is not prohibited in its license from releasing water through two-turbines, and states it does so when there is sufficient water.  There has been no evidence that this project operation has had any additional impacts on the bald eagle habitat or other resources in the area, or impedes other recreational uses such as birdwatching or fishing.  In addition, the Club has regularly requested additional releases due to the increased demand for whitewater opportunities in the area and the lack of safety incidents and impacts to other users.

 

Based on the increased demand and lack of impacts on other resources and safety, several two-turbine releases should be scheduled during the 2004 recreation season.  These releases should be scheduled on one weekend day a month from June through October during 2004.  The licensee shall inform the public when these releases are scheduled using the telephone hotline currently in place, which the licensee updates on or before the Wednesday prior to the release.  The licensee should also file a listing of the scheduled one and two-turbine releases with the Commission by June 1, 2004. 

 

In addition, the licensee should monitor usage and file a report by January 31, 2005, which includes the number of whitewater boaters on weekend days for both one-turbine and two-turbine flow releases from June through October 31 of each year. The report shall also include: (1) a discussion of the adequacy of the timing of the flow

releases to serve the needs of the boaters; (2) an evaluation of the impacts to public safety on the Mongaup River from the Rio Dam to the confluence with the Delaware River;

(3) a discussion of what adjustments in project operation may be made to ensure the needed flows; and, (4) evidence of consultation with the agencies including copies of comment letters and responses to comments.  If the results of the report indicate that the two-turbine releases are possible and are meeting the needs of the public, the Commission reserves the right to require two-turbine releases on a permanent basis.  If the licensee cannot provide the flows pursuant to the established schedule, it should notify the public as soon as practical using the established hotline, and shall file notification with the Commission no later than 10 days after the schedule release.  This notification shall include the reasons for the change and any alternative dates for the release.

 

            The 2002 report meets the requirements of article 408 and should be approved.  The scheduling of two-turbine releases will provide additional recreation benefit to the project with minimal impact to the environmental resources of the area.

 

The Director orders:

 

(A)  The 2002 recreation monitoring report filed on April 29, 2003, pursuant to amended article 408, is approved, as modified by ordering paragraphs (B) and (C). 

 

(B)  The licensee shall schedule two-turbine releases during the 2004 recreation season on one weekend day a month from June through October.  The licensee shall inform the public when these releases are scheduled on the established telephone hotline which it updates on or before the Wednesday prior to the release.  The licensee shall file a listing of the scheduled one and two-turbine releases with the Commission by

June 1, 2004. 

 

(C)  The licensee shall monitor usage and file a report by January 31, 2005, which includes the number of whitewater boaters on weekend days for both one-turbine and

two-turbine flow releases from June through October 31 of each year. The report shall also include: (1) a discussion of the adequacy of the timing of the flow releases to serve the needs of the boaters; (2) an evaluation of the impacts to public safety on the Mongaup River from the Rio Dam to the confluence with the Delaware River; (3) a discussion of what adjustments in project operation may be made to ensure the needed flows; and, (4) evidence of consultation with the agencies including copies of comment letters and responses to comments.  If the results of the report indicate that the two-turbine releases are possible and are meeting the needs of the public, the Commission reserves the right to require two-turbine releases on a permanent basis.  If the licensee cannot provide the flows pursuant to the established schedule, it should notify the public as soon as practical using the established hotline and shall file notification with the Commission no later than

10 days after the schedule release.  This notification shall include the reasons for the change and any alternative dates for the release.

 

(D) This order constitutes final agency action.  Requests for rehearing by the

 Commission may be filed within 30 days of the date of issuance of this order, pursuant to 18 CFR 385.713.

 

 

 

John E. Estep                                                                                                                           Division of Hydropower Administration

and Compliance

 

 

 

Aw staff
Kevin Colburn
302 Donnybrook Dr
Asheville, NC 28806-9518


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