River Reporter: Prattsville rides again?

So, here we go again: same watershed, same issues. The upper basin of Ashokan Reservoir is fed by the often turbid waters of the Schoharie Reservoir and the Esopus Creek via the Shandaken Tunnel. When the Ashokan Reservoir complex was completed around 1915, the upper basin, because of the upstream silt load, was designed as a settling basin for all of that silt. Silt has been accumulating in the upper basin for more than 100 years, meaning that pumping activity would cause the upper basin to remain off-color indefinitely. As a result, those fishes, including brown and rainbow trout would have difficulty finding food items, such as plankton and forage fish, to feed upon. In addition, there is the possibility, depending on the volume of water required to fill the upper reservoir as compared to the volume of water available in the lower basin of Ashokan Reservoir, that destratification would occur. If destratification did take place, the resultant warmer water temperatures could impact brown and rainbow trout populations living in the upper basin. It is also probable that the entrainment of eggs and larvae of fish like walleyed pike would be subject to the pressure changes associated with the pumping cycle. As a result, many of those organisms would die. There’s also the possibility, depending on the level that the upper basin is drawn down during the pump-up cycle, that spawning beds of inshore spawners like bass and sunfishes would be exposed to the air and perish.

The upper basin of the Ashokan Reservoir is approximately twice the size of Schoharie Reservoir, so the impacts associated with pump storage operations on that basin are unknown at this time. Nevertheless, the issues outlined regarding turbidity, destratification, entrainment and drawdown on inshore spawners need to be thoroughly addressed before any permits or licenses are issued. That process will involve public hearings and take several years to complete.

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