This letter to the editor originally appeared in The Patriot-News earlier today.
The Susquehanna River--one of the nation's longest and most important rivers is in trouble. Scientists and anglers have for several years been reporting unprecedented incidents of diseased and dying smallmouth bass in the Lower Susquehanna.
This nearly 100-mile stretch of river, spanning from Sunbury to the Maryland border, has long been a destination for anglers seeking the smallmouth. Unfortunately many experts and anglers now speculate that current conditions in the Lower Susquehanna may lead to the possible collapse of this once-renowned fishery.
We believe the federal Clean Water Act is clear--when a problem of this significance is found in our waters, it warrants listing it as an impaired water body. Our organizations last fall joined the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission in petitioning the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to include the Lower Susquehanna on the state Impaired Waters List. Doing so would galvanize state, federal, academic, and nonprofit resources to not only study the problem but, importantly, to devise a detailed plan to fix it.
DEP has not supported listing the River as impaired and has not included the Lower Susquehanna in its final Impaired Waters List, which was submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in January. This issue is now in the hands of EPA.
In the meantime, DEP and other state and federal agencies have committed to continue to study the River, and we commend them for that. However, we call on DEP and the other agencies to collectively commit to a clearly defined public engagement process that provides updates on the study and the progress, and to publicly share their data and findings throughout the process.
We all benefit from a healthy river through livable communities with strong local economies, protected human health, increased property values and recreational opportunities. We all benefit from a healthy, vital Susquehanna River.
--Harry Campbell, Pennsylvania Executive Director, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and Liz G. Deardorff, Director, American Rivers' Clean Water Program - Pennsylvania