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04 January 2009

America’s Most Endangered Rivers of 2007: Upper Delaware River, New York

From American Rivers

Threat: Proposed Power Line

One of America’s first Wild and Scenic Rivers, the Upper Delaware River now faces a threat that would not only harm the river, but set a chilling precedent for the rest of our nation’s river treasures. A corporation has proposed a massive new power line that would cut through the Upper Delaware River corridor, undermining the river’s outstanding natural characteristics that support the local tourism-based economy. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) must respect the federal protection afforded the Upper Delaware by keeping the power line out.

The River
In many ways, the Scenic and Recreational Upper Delaware River was an obvious choice as one of America’s first Wild and Scenic Rivers. Unobstructed from Hancock to Port Jervis, New York, the river winds through forests and farmland, past cliffs and villages, providing habitat that supports abundant wildlife populations, including bald eagles. The river supports world-class trout fishing as well as American shad, striped bass and river herring.

The scenic beauty of the Delaware River and valley is readily accessible by millions of people who live within 150 miles of the river. More than 500,000 people are drawn to the river annually to take part in the recreational opportunities available, including sightseeing, boating, camping, hunting, fishing, hiking and bird watching. Not surprisingly, tourism is the largest industry in the region, providing jobs to 10 percent of the local population and $65 million to the local economy in Pike County, Pennsylvania. In Sullivan County, New York, the year-round population more than triples on typical summer weekends.

Additionally, more than 17 million people get drinking water from the Delaware River basin, including New York City and Philadelphia residents.

The Threat
New York Regional Interconnect, Inc. (NYRI) is proposing an electric transmission corridor in the Upper Delaware River Valley. The proposed
1,200 megawatt high-voltage power line would begin in New York near Utica and extend 190 miles to Rock Tavern in Orange County, following the Upper Delaware River for 73.4 miles. The transmission corridor would require clear-cutting all trees and vegetation and regular spraying of herbicides within
a 100-foot wide swath along the river, harming fish and eliminating significant
amounts of wildlife habitat and beneficial vegetation along the river’s edge. The proposed power line would also cross numerous streams, creeks and other wetlands along the river. Moreover, the power line construction would also require buying out local landowners and taking property by eminent domain.

Construction of this power line would do irreparable harm not only to the Upper Delaware, but would set a bad precedent for the management of all rivers in the Wild and Scenic Rivers System. Indeed, the 1986 Wild and Scenic River management plan for the Upper Delaware specifically rejects major electric transmission lines within the river corridor as an “incompatible use.” Ignoring that clear direction and doing permanent damage to the unique values that led to the Upper Delaware’s inclusion in the System in 1978 would threaten the ability of river managers around the country to protect our unique Wild and Scenic Rivers.

What’s At Stake
Congress originally included the Upper Delaware River in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System for its scenic, recreational, historic, environmental and cultural assets. The intent was to protect this corridor for the enjoyment and benefit of present and future generations. The power line would diminish recreational opportunities and the revenue they generate for local communities,nd would decrease property values. It would cause harm to the river and the wildlife it supports, and it would undermine the spirit of the National Wild and Scenic designation for rivers across America.

New York state does need to address the reliability of its electric transmission system, but it needs to be done in an environmentally responsible manner that respects the rights of local communities and property owners and serves the public interest. The NYRI proposal does not meet that standard. Alternatives including locating the power line along other pre-existing transmission corridors would be significantly less damaging to the local economy and wildlife.

What Must Be Done
The DOE is considering an application to designate the Upper Delaware River Valley as part of a National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor (NIETC), which would allow NYRI to circumvent New York state’s review and permitting process. The DOE should reject this application. The proposed project would lie almost entirely within New York state, and the New York State Public Service Commission permitting process should not be trumped by a NIETC designation that would be squarely at odds with the river’s National Wild and Scenic designation.

Furthermore, to ensure the reliability of New York state’s electricity system, the DOE should look at the recommendations from New York state’s regional transmission planning organization, the Independent System Operator
(NYISO). All alternatives that do not endanger a valuable public resource should be fully evaluated and considered.

Take Action

Peter Raabe, American Rivers, (202) 347-7550 Ext. 3006, Praabe@Americanrivers.Org

Marcia Nehemiah, Upper Delaware Preservation Coalition, (570) 685-8774,

Sue Currier, Delaware Highlands Conservancy, (570) 226-3164, Info@Delawarehighlands.Org


  1. Take a kid fishing in 2009.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


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