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Lower Delaware Monitoring Program To Begin

For Immediate Release

June 22, 1998

(WEST TRENTON, N.J.) - The Delaware River Basin Commission and the Delaware Riverkeeper Network today announced the startup of the Lower Delaware Cooperative Monitoring Program. The Commission is an interstate-federal water resources agency while the Riverkeeper Network is an organization of citizen activists.

The Commission and the Network are uniting under the umbrella of the Delaware River Greenway Partnership to initiate a joint pilot water quality and ecological monitoring program for the section of the Delaware from the Lambertville wing dams to Trenton. The Greenway Partnership is a consortium of over 140 agencies, organizations, and individuals interested in the condition of the Delaware River.

Although the States of Pennsylvania and New Jersey conduct water quality monitoring activities in the Lower Delaware (the 80-mile reach of river from the Delaware Water Gap to Trenton), additional monitoring is needed as recognized in the recently released National Park Service Lower Delaware River Management Plan for the proposed Lower Delaware national scenic river.

Concerns for the health of the increasing numbers of recreational river users and for that of resident fish prompts the need for increased monitoring. Although funds are not available for a fully operational program for the entire river section, the Commission and the Riverkeeper Network have pooled resources to initiate the pilot program. It is anticipated that the experience and information gained from the pilot effort will prove useful when funding is found for a larger program in subsequent years.

The 1998 program will consist of a water quality monitoring component and an ecological component. The water quality monitoring component will consist of monthly water quality sampling at three river sites (Washington Crossing, Yardley, and Trenton/Morrisville) and at least 10 major tributaries between the upper section of Washington Crossing State Park, Pennsylvania, and the Calhoun Street Bridge (4 in New Jersey and 6 in Pennsylvania). These locations will be sampled by Delaware River Basin Commission staff for various water quality parameters. In addition, annual habitat assessments will be conducted at each sampling site. Additional tributaries throughout the Lower Delaware reach will also be sampled by Riverkeeper volunteers for routine water quality parameters. The exact number of these will depend upon the number of available volunteers.

Although some preliminary monitoring is occurring in June, full monitoring will begin in July. In addition, Commission staff have recently set up flow gages at all the tributary monitoring sites so that stream flow data can be gathered along with the water quality information.

Ecological studies will focus on aquatic plants in the river itself.. A two-part study will be conducted by Commission and Riverkeeper staff with help from volunteers. The first part will consist of 24-hour "diel studies" that monitor changes in water quality over a 24-hour period. Tests for dissolved oxygen, temperature, pH, and conductivity will be run each hour or every other hour. The studies result in measurements of photosynthesis and respiration rates that yield valuable information on the river's productivity and ecological health. A second diel study is planned for August or early September.

The diel study results will be augmented by a boat and canoe survey of aquatic plant beds in the pilot study reach. This survey will examine plant species, the density of plant beds, and bed locations.

Weather and river flows permitting, the following schedule is anticipated: Aquatic plant surveys -- week of July 6; First diel study -- July 13 and 14; July water quality sampling at river and tributaries -- week of July 13. August and September dates have not yet been scheduled. Project managers and contact persons for the cooperative program are: Bob Limbeck, Delaware River Basin Commission (609-883-9500 ext: 230) and Fred Stine, Delaware Riverkeeper Network (215-369-1188).