Exelon Generation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Monday announced an agreement to restore American shad and river herring to the East Coast’s largest river over the next 50 years.
Shad and river herring are returning to their spawning grounds on the Susquehanna River at their lowest numbers since the 1980s.
Exelon will improve fish passage facilities at Conowingo Dam and transport up to 100,000 American shad and 100,000 river herring annually to their spawning grounds above all four dams.
“With the support of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and consent of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Exelon is pleased to be party to an agreement that takes a significant step toward the Fish and Wildlife Service’s goals to restore American shad and river herring populations on the Susquehanna River,” said Ron DeGregorio, President, Exelon Power, Senior Vice President, Exelon Generation. “The trap and transport program allows fish to bypass Holtwood, Safe Harbor and York Haven Dams to successfully reach their spawning grounds.”
Hundreds of thousands of American shad and river herring passed Conowingo Dam in 2001, but that number dwindled to less than 15,000 shad each of the last two years and less than 1,000 herring each year since 2003.
The Service, along with other members of the Susquehanna River Anadromous Fish Restoration Cooperative, seeks to restore 2 million shad and 5 million herring above all dams.
“This is a victory for everyone who lives or recreates on the Susquehanna River and the Chesapeake Bay,” said Wendi Weber, Northeast regional director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “The agreement honors the science-based recommendations developed by the federal and state agencies that manage these resources. Along with upgrades at two upstream dams, we believe hydropower dams should no longer be the most limiting factor for shad on the East Coast’s biggest river.”
Unlike other agreements, the agreement announced Monday not only requires immediate restoration efforts, it also requires that efforts adapt over 50 years to support a growing fish population.
Cutting-edge modeling will be used to upgrade Conowingo’s two existing fish lifts to meet fish passage restoration goals.
The agreement also reiterates American eel restoration efforts originally outlined in the Muddy Run Pumped Storage Facility license in Lancaster County.Eels will be trapped and transported upstream through at least 2030, after which a new structure will support passage. As eels migrate upstream, they distribute freshwater mussels that filter millions of gallons of water daily.