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August 25, 2011


Michael Saucier  (718) 595-6600

Statement from Deputy Commissioner Paul Rush On the Activation of the Ashokan Release Channel 

"We are doing everything we can in advance of the storm, and are working closely with Ulster County and other communities to help mitigate flooding. Following a request from Ulster County and the Town of Hurley, and with the agreement of the State Department of Environmental Conservation, DEP will activate the Ashokan Release Channel starting this afternoon and continue releasing water as long as necessary to mitigate the impacts of the expected storm and based on the downstream flow."

Activating the release channel is being undertaken in response to the potential impacts that Hurricane Irene may have on the reservoir system. The releases — 600 million gallons a day — will increase the Ashokan Reservoir's ability to capture runoff by creating a void in the west basin of the reservoir, providing enhanced flood protection for communities south of the reservoir along the lower Esopus Creek. This will also provide an additional benefit of protecting water quality by reducing the amount of spillage from the more turbid west basin into the higher quality east basin, thereby protecting the drinking water of approximately 8.4 million New York City residents and the roughly 160,000 residents of towns that rely on the Catskill Aqueduct such as New Paltz and High Falls in Ulster County, and New Windsor and Cornwall in Orange County.

Yesterday, DEP announced that it increased the water release rates from the Neversink and Pepacton reservoirs. The increased releases enhance the reservoirs' ability to absorb storm inflow and are provided for in the Flexible Flow Management Plan that went into effect on June 1, 2011. The plan is intended to provide a more adaptive means for managing the Cannonsville, Pepacton, and Neversink reservoirs. DEP will continue higher releases as needed and began releasing water at both reservoirs Tuesday, August 24, at approximately 3 pm. At Pepacton, DEP is currently releasing approximately 453 million gallons a day; and at Neversink DEP is currently releasing approximately 123 million gallons of water a day — both rates are the maximum rates for each reservoir permitted under the plan.

All of the reservoir releases are made possible in part because of DEP's multi-million dollar investment in the new Operations Support Tool, a high-tech computer application which allows DEP to better predict reservoir-specific water storage levels, quality, and inflows. The Operations Support Tool gives a level of certainty that was not previously possible about when it is safe to release water without depleting the water supply of nine million New Yorkers.

The Ashokan Release Channel is a concrete canal used to convey water released in a controlled manner from the reservoir through the upper and lower gate chambers to the Little Beaverkill Stream and the lower Esopus Creek. Located in Ulster County, the Ashokan Reservoir is approximately 13 miles west of Kingston and 73 miles north of New York City. It was formed by the damming of the Esopus Creek at Olivebridge, which eventually flows northeast and drains into the Hudson River. The reservoir holds 127.9 billion gallons at full capacity and was opened in 1915.  It has a west and east basin on either side of the Dividing Weir and has a spillway for reservoir overflow.

DEP manages the city's water supply, providing more than one billion gallons of water each day to more than nine million residents, including eight million in New York City, and residents of Ulster, Orange, Putnam and Westchester counties. New York City's water is delivered from the Catskill, Delaware, and Croton watersheds that extend more than 125 miles from the City, and comprises 19 reservoirs, and three controlled lakes. The DEP police protect the watershed and its facilities, including seven wastewater treatment plants. For more information, visit www.nyc.gov/dep or follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/nycwater.

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