Thursday, September 25, 2014

Fish & Boat Commission: Support Water Resources, Oppose House Bill 1565

The following letter was sent by John Arway, Executive Director of the Fish and Boat Commission, to all members of the House urging them to support water resources and oppose House Bill 1565 (Hahn-R-Northampton) eliminating the nearly 4 year old requirement for stream buffers in High Quality and Exceptional Value streams.
The Commission joins the Chesapeake Bay Foundation-PAPA Environmental Council, Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, the PA Chapter of The Nature Conservancy,
PA Council of Trout Unlimited and the PA League of Women Voters in opposing the bill.
The text of the letter follows--
On behalf of Pennsylvania’s aquatic resources, 1.1 million anglers, and more than three million boaters, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) respectfully asks you to consider voting no on House Bill 1565 (Printer’s Number 4116).  While we appreciate the amendments offered to the bill, enacting HB 1565 would be a step backwards and unnecessarily jeopardize the Commonwealth’s most sensitive waters.
Riparian buffers serve multiple and varied functions for the protection and conservation of waterways and the fish and people who rely on them.  They are an essential component of watershed management, providing numerous physical, chemical, and biological benefits that include, but are not limited to, reduction of non-point source runoff, attenuation of flood flows, and maintenance of stream water temperatures and aquatic habitat.
With our mission to protect, conserve, and enhance aquatic resources and provide fishing and boating opportunities, the PFBC is in a unique position to understand the importance of riparian buffers to the coldwater aquatic resources of the Commonwealth.  We are especially concerned with the maintenance of buffers because we manage over 15,000 miles of streams for trout fishing.
By their very nature as being designated the “best of the best,” the High Quality and Exceptional Value streams for which buffers are currently required represent a minority of waters.  Further limiting its scope, the existing requirement only applies to new development and includes a number of exceptions.  Thus, the current scale of required buffers is already relatively minimal statewide.
Riparian buffers are the least expensive, most effective, and lowest maintenance approach to sustaining water quality and reducing the harmful impacts of erosion, sedimentation, and flooding.  Our agency wholeheartedly endorsed the establishment of riparian buffer protections when they were being debated in 2010, and our support for the requirements is unwavering.
Thank you for considering the undisputed role that riparian buffers contribute to the long-term health and maintenance of Pennsylvania’s water resources, the recreational and ecological functions they support, and the downstream communities they serve.
The bill is expected to be taken up by the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee when the Senate returns to voting session October 6.

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