A delay on a critical decision about the health of the Susquehanna River has prompted the Board of Fish and Boat Commissioners to send a letter to DEP Secretary John Quigley reiterating their call that the river is sick and urging him to issue the agency’s decision.
“For over six years, we, the Board of Commissioners of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC), have been speaking publicly about the need to take action to restore the Susquehanna River’s smallmouth bass fishery,” stated the April 27 letter to DEP Secretary John Quigley. “In January 2010 and September 2014, we unanimously passed resolutions to that effect.”
“We agree with PFBC Executive Director John Arway that the results of the Causal Analysis/Diagnosis Decision Information System (CADDIS) initiative support an impairment determination and are concerned that it has taken so long for [DEP] to announce its decision. To that end, we are expecting that an announcement about the listing decision will be forthcoming in May.”
Since 2012, the PFBC has unsuccessfully petitioned DEP to add the river to the state’s bi-annual list of impaired waterways. The 2016 list was expected to be issued in February, but DEP acknowledged to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that it was postponing the announcement of the list until May.
“The impairment designation is critical because it starts a timeline for developing a restoration plan,” said PFBC Executive Director John Arway. “We’ve known the river has been sick since 2005, when we first started seeing sores and lesions on young bass. Now we have even more evidence to support the scientific argument for impairment.”
“If we do not act to address the water quality issues in the Susquehanna River, Pennsylvania risks losing what is left of what was once considered a world-class smallmouth bass fishery,” he said. “DEP was expected to release its 2016 list of impaired waters in February. Now it’s been delayed. We are urging DEP once again to follow the science and add the Susquehanna River to the Commonwealth’s list of impaired waters.”
A copy of the letter is available online.
The PFBC first documented disease-related mortality of young-of-year smallmouth bass in the Susquehanna River in 2005.
In May 2015, the PFBC announced that two independent laboratory tests had confirmed a malignant, or cancerous, tumor on a single smallmouth bass caught in the middle Susquehanna River by an angler in late 2014 and provided to the PFBC.
Since 2005, PFBC biologists have continued to find sores and lesions on young-of-year bass during late spring and early summer surveys at alarming rates. This has resulted in an overall population decline in the total number of smallmouth bass which can live and be caught from the Susquehanna River.
DEP said it expects to make available its latest report on streams recommended for impairment status sometime in May for public comment.
For more information, visit the Fish & Boat Commission’s Susquehanna River Impairment and DEP’s Susquehanna River Study Updates webpages.
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