(HARRISBURG, PA)—Harry Campbell, Pennsylvania Executive Director for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) issued this statement following the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) approval of the state Department of Environmental Protection's (DEP) 2012 Impaired Waters List. CBF and partners petitioned DEP to list the Lower Susquehanna River as impaired, due to on-going, disease and die-offs of the smallmouth bass population in this 100-mile stretch of the river.
DEP's final report includes a change in the designation for a nearly 100-mile section of the main stem of the Susquehanna River from "unimpaired" for aquatic life and recreational uses, to having insufficient water quality data to make an impairment determination. That change from the draft to the final report reflects comments submitted to PADEP from EPA and others, as well as ongoing efforts to identify the cause of health impacts to the Susquehanna's smallmouth bass population.
"While CBF is disappointed in today's decision by the EPA, one fact that remains is that the smallmouth bass in the Lower Susquehanna River are in trouble. So significant are the disease and die off rates that fisheries scientist fear a complete collapse of this once world renowned fishery. We believe this fact is enough for EPA and PADEP to have listed the lower Susquehanna as impaired.
"State and federal agencies and commissions will be held accountable for continuing to conduct a comprehensive and defensible analysis of the myriad of different factors which may be affecting the bass. CBF believes that listing the river as impaired would have galvanized greater resources toward investigation of the situation and, if deemed necessary, established a plan to fit it. Impairment listing would have also assured future state and federal administrations continued to focus on this issue.
"We will scrutinize this decision as we explore possible options. But one thing is clear; we can and must do more than study the problem to save the smallmouth bass. As our report, "Angling for Healthier Rivers" shows, reducing pollution in the streams that feed into the River is of utmost importance to Pennsylvania's economy and natural resources.
"We must continue to invest in the types of programs and policies that address pollution from all sectors, upgrade our sewer infrastructure, green our urban and suburban landscapes, spur our economy, and increase our quality of life."