DEP Announces Updated Rules for Watershed Recreation Use

Recreational boating on the Schoharie Reservoir in the Catskill Mountains. The Schoharie Reservoir is one of 19 DEP-owned reservoirs across the state that supply New York City with water. Image Credit: NYC DEP

New rules include an expanded recreational boating season and an e-cigarette ban. On May 31, 2019, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) published the final updated rules governing recreation access to over 137,000 acres of water and the surrounding watershed lands. The rules were created to protect the water supply and promote outdoor recreation and go into effect on June 30th.

The City’s watershed recreation rules apply to land owned by DEP and water supply properties in New York City and Delaware, Dutchess, Greene, Putnam, Schoharie, Sullivan, Ulster, and Westchester counties. The Department of Environmental Protection currently allows many low-impact recreational activities across 19 reservoirs, three lakes and thousands of acres of watershed property. The rules were last updated in 2010.

Under the updated rules, some of the beneficial changes include allowing the use of service dogs in all Day Use areas and increasing the term for fishing boat tags to four years instead of only two years. The season for recreational boating has expanded by six weeks and will run from May 1st to October 31st.

Some new prohibitions include a ban on smoking, including e-cigarettes. Sailboats are no longer an allowable recreation boat, as the Department is concerned that invasive species like Zebra mussels and Hydrilla may be on sailboats and brought into DEP-controlled reservoirs and controlled lakes. Drones may not be launched or landed on City property. Horses and target shooting are also prohibited.

Some of the updated rules affect access permits. Access permits are required for recreation on reservoirs and their surrounding lands; however, there are over 74,000 acres open for recreation without a permit. Under the updated rules IDNYC, passports or school-issued identification will be accepted as valid identification for access permits. DEP also now has the authority to waive access permit requirements for special one-time events like reservoir cleanups or family fishing days. Additionally, the new minimum age to obtain an access permit has been increased from 12 to 16.

The full version of the new updated recreation rules can be found here.


By: Veronica Rose (Veronica is the CityLaw fellow and a New York Law School graduate, Class of 2018.)



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