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March 26, 2019
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DEP Reactivates Shandaken Tunnel to Supplement Natural Flow in Esopus Creek

South outet of Shandaken Tunnel

Project at intake chamber paused because of dry conditions, unfavorable hydrology

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) today temporarily halted some of its work at the Shandaken Tunnel Intake Chamber because of dry weather, which required the City to reactivate the 18-mile-long tunnel that supplements the natural flow of water in the Esopus Creek. DEP shut down the tunnel—which conveys water from Schoharie Reservoir to the Esopus Creek and Ashokan Reservoir—on March 4 to facilitate the replacement of flow control gates at the intake chamber. That shutdown was scheduled to last until April 30.

The timing and duration of the shutdown was planned in close coordination with the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). Because the tunnel contributes water to the Esopus Creek, the shutdown was planned to coincide with the period of spring rains and melting snow that have historically provided the greatest quantity of natural flow within the creek. During each shutdown, DEP and DEC hold weekly meetings to review the current and forecasted flow of water within the creek to decide whether the shutdown can continue for its full duration.

DEP reactivated the tunnel Monday after that weekly discussion with DEC. A period of dry weather, combined with relatively little snowpack in the watershed, caused the natural flow in the upper Esopus Creek to drop below a desired threshold. The reactivation of the Shandaken Tunnel will provide an additional 200-250 million gallons of water per day to the creek at the portal outlet in Allaben.

The shutdown was meant to allow divers to install a massive plug within the intake structure at Schoharie Reservoir, setting the condition for them to safely remove and replace eight gates that control the flow of water into the tunnel. During the first three weeks of the shutdown, divers installed the plug but did not complete the construction of the bypass pipe through the plug to allow work to begin on the gates. The work is part of a $47 million rehabilitation of the Shandaken Tunnel Intake Chamber.

Engineers and scientists from both agencies will continue to review the hydrologic forecast to determine whether the shutdown can resume later this spring. DEP will keep its neighbors in the watershed apprised of plans for the project as they evolve.

DEP manages New York City’s water supply, providing more than 1 billion gallons of high-quality water each day to more than 9.6 million New Yorkers. This includes more than 70 upstate communities and institutions in Ulster, Orange, Putnam and Westchester counties who consume an average of 110 million total gallons of drinking water daily from New York City’s water supply system. This water comes from the Catskill, Delaware, and Croton watersheds that extend more than 125 miles from the City, and the system comprises 19 reservoirs, three controlled lakes, and numerous tunnels and aqueducts. DEP has nearly 6,000 employees, including almost 1,000 scientists, engineers, surveyors, watershed maintainers and other professionals in the watershed. In addition to its $70 million payroll and $168.9 million in annual taxes paid in upstate counties, DEP has invested more than $1.7 billion in watershed protection programs—including partnership organizations such as the Catskill Watershed Corporation and the Watershed Agricultural Council—that support sustainable farming practices, environmentally sensitive economic development, and local economic opportunity. In addition, DEP has a robust capital program with $19.7 billion in investments planned over the next decade that will create up to 3,000 construction-related jobs per year. For more information, visit, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.

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NYC Department of Environmental Protection
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