(HARRISBURG, PA)—Harry Campbell, executive director for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) in Pennsylvania, issued this statement following the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's (DEP) release of its Draft Integrated Water Quality Report, which does not include a recommendation that the Lower Susquehanna River be declared an impaired waterway as it relates to the struggles of its smallmouth bass population.
Diseased and dying smallmouth bass were first found in the river in 2005. In what was once a world-class bass fishery, fish continue to bear sores and lesions. Researchers have been finding intersex fish—adult male bass with female eggs in their testes—since before 2005.
The report recommends that four miles of the Susquehanna River be impaired for recreational use and includes an impairment for consumption of channel catfish. These listings are not directly related to the condition of the smallmouth bass population in the river.
Mr. Campbell said:
"Given the well-documented death and disease of smallmouth bass in the Lower Susquehanna River for more than a decade, it is disappointing that the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has chosen not to recommend impairment for the threat to aquatic life. While DEP did recommend impairment for a portion of the river, its recommendations must go a step further to include impairment that will address the threat to smallmouth bass.
"DEP acknowledges that emerging contaminants such as endocrine disrupting compounds and herbicides in the river are a major concern.
"Considering the plight of the smallmouth bass, not declaring the Lower Susquehanna to be impaired is another example of Pennsylvania's continued lack of leadership, dedication, and investment when it comes to following-through with its Clean Water Blueprint commitment that dates back to 2010. Pennsylvania is not serving the needs of its citizens or the animals that rely on clean water for their very lives.
"Roughly 19,000 miles of Pennsylvania waterways remain damaged by pollution, and the Commonwealth continues to be significantly off-track in meeting its commitment for reducing nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution that flows into its rivers and streams.
"Sadly, DEP has already acknowledged that Pennsylvania will not meet its Blueprint goal of having 60 percent of pollution-reduction practices necessary to restore water quality in place by 2017. The Commonwealth must accelerate efforts if it is to have 100 percent in place and meet the 2025 goal.
"The Susquehanna divides our region but unites our communities. The river is an economic asset for the Commonwealth. Its value goes beyond what was once a world-class smallmouth bass fishery. Like other polluted waters in Pennsylvania, the river deserves to be restored as soon as possible.
"We encourage all those who care about and depend on the Susquehanna River, to contact the DEP during the 45-day public comment period and let the agency know that it is time to do the right thing, consider the threat to smallmouth bass, and recommend that the river be declared an impaired waterway for aquatic life."
It's long past time we take action for the health of the Susquehanna. Join CBF and its partners in urging Governor Wolf and DEP to consider the threat to smallmouth bass, and push for the Lower Susquehanna River to be on DEP's Impaired Waters list.