Susquehanna Fish Diseased Yet The River Is Not ‘Impaired’

Wildlife depend on a healthy Susquehanna River for survival | © MissTessmacher

Wildlife depend on a healthy Susquehanna River for survival | © MissTessmacher

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved Pennsylvania’ Department of Protection (PA-DEP) list of impaired waterways [PDF] disappointing advocates for a healthy Susquehanna River.

In August 2011, American Rivers joined the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), Pennsylvania’s Fish and Boat Commission (Fish and Boat) and others to request listing the lower Susquehanna River as impaired in order to restore the ecological health and important smallmouth bass fishery. PA-DEP did not support placing the river on the impaired list that was submitted for EPA approval earlier this year although listing would initiate a long-term clean-up plan.

EPA did express “concern about the health of smallmouth basin the Susquehanna River” and supported the research and monitoring PA-DEP is conducting in collaboration with the Susquehanna River Basin Commission and other agencies in response, in part, to intense public concern for the declining fishery health of the River.

While EPA is encouraged that these efforts will “yield sufficient information to determine possible stressors impacting smallmouth bass,” a recent CBF report [PDF] concludes that disease is linked to the fishery decline and restoring the ecological health of the River requires action to address a myriad of pollution conditions. While further study of the Susquehanna River condition may be helpful, the river and its fisheries will not improve without putting a cleanup plan to action.

The Clean Water Act [PDF] requires states to assess waterways for impairment and submit lists of impairments every two years. What number of diseased fish will provide PA-DEP adequate evidence to include the Susquehanna on the next list and begin the long-term clean-up plan necessary to restore the river to a healthy state?

Visitors to the Susquehanna River can help collect data adequate to support steps toward a clean-up plan by reporting diseased fish to Fish and Boat or following the multi-agency study progress.