Economic impact of cold water fishery $414 million, study shows

Delaware County Economic Development and Friends of the Upper Delaware River have completed a study of the economic impact of the cold-water fishery that now exists on the Delaware River’s upper sections, including the East and West branches. The study required eight months of research and included an online business survey. It was funded with help from the Delaware County Industrial Development Agency and the Upper Dela­ware Council.
The survey and study were conducted with the assistance of Shepstone Management Company and addressed economic impacts for a region encompassing parts of Broome, Delaware, Sullivan and Wayne counties. Research and data from a number of sources concluded that the lack of consistent cold water releases from New York City’s Cannonsville and Pepacton reservoirs has kept the local boating and fishing industry from capitalizing on approximately 40 percent of the recreational opportunities that could exist with more consistent releases.

Environmental jewel
“The Upper Delaware River is an environmental jewel and an economic driver for the region. This report demonstrates just how important it is to protect and restore this magnificent resource for people, communities, water quality, and wildlife habitat,” said Jeff Skelding, executive director of Friends of the Upper Delaware River.
The final estimate of the current net value of the cold-water fishery is an estimated $414 million ($305 million in economic activity plus another $109 million in second home real estate values connected with that activity). It is further estimated the value of the cold water fishery as both a boating and fishing resource, as well as a foundation for camping and second home visitation, could be enhanced by $274 million with more consistent cold water releases ($203 million in economic activity plus another $71 million in second home real estate values connected with that activity).
The study further notes every dollar spent at the fishing destination by anglers is accompanied by another 61 cents spent en-route. This means another $186 million is now being spent on boating and fishing related activities outside the immediately impacted area, with the potential to add another $124 million from more consistent releases. Assuming 75 percent of that money is spent in New York, that’s another potential $7.5 million in sales tax revenue for those areas.
“As Tourism Director of Delaware County,” stated James Thomson, “I have always felt that the true value of this important tourism resource was not being adequately acknowledged. To me this study validates my feelings and I am more convinced than ever that we need to work with NY City DEP to find ways to protect what we have now and to indeed maximize the tourism potential of the Delaware River.”

Boating & fishing boost
Finally, the study illustrates it is residents of the New York City metro area who own many of the second homes in the immediately impacted region and as much $22.8 million of the $109 million in second home value is related to boating and fishing. Their properties could gain as much as $15.2 million in value from more consistent cold water releases by the City of New York.
The study, accordingly, recommends a more reliable, consistent pattern of releases such as that as articulated within an “Equitable Apportionment Plan” strongly supported by both Upper Delaware conservation and development groups. The purpose of the plan is to alleviate dramatic fluctuations in releases and river flows and address thermal stress concerns.

Big county impact
Delaware County Economic Development Director, Glenn Nealis, commented that, “while it may not be practical to ensure proper flows for boating and fishing every weekend, there is a lot of room for improvement, and with the City’s cooperation, we could generate some significant economic benefits to the region potentially exceeding a quarter of a billion dollars.”
For more information, contact: Delaware County Department of Economic Development, 607 746-8595.