The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

April 10, 2012

Susquehanna River 'impaired,' says state official

Action must be taken now, he contends

SUNBURY — HARRISBURG — The executive director of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission said Tuesday that the state Department of Environmental Protection needs to designate the Susquehanna River as “impaired” and establish total maximum daily limits for pollution from runoff to correct the water quality issues.

Expressing frustration, John Arway said, “we need to move beyond research and begin some action before the entire fishery of the Susquehanna River collapses.”

In a letter to DEP Secretary Michael Krancer, Arway said he was “very concerned about the diseases plaguing smallmouth bass in the Susquehanna River and its tributaries.” The Susquehanna, Arway said, was once considered to be one of the best smallmouth bass fisheries on the East Coast.

Now, that fishery is in serious danger of extinction.

“Reports of sick fish,” he explained, “means we have a sick river.”

A 2007 economic impact study of the Susquehanna River fishery, encompassing 136 miles of the Juniata and Susquyehanna rivers, from Sunbury downstream to Holtwood Dam, totaled $2.37 million.

The primary sport fishery of this reach of river is for smallmouth bass.

Arway bridled at suggestions that the Fish and Boat Commission has not been doing all it can to “identify the causative agents responsible for the decline of this important fishery.”

He said the series of articles run in The Daily Item about the problem have brought on a “welcome level of public and legislative concern and an outcry for action. But we want everyone to know that the Boat Commission is part of the solution to the problem, not the problem.”

Arway also noted that of particular concern are recent sightings of melanosis or black spots in smallmouth bass throughout the Susquehanna River basin. “That’s one of the reasons we’ve been calling for the river to be designated impaired. We don’t know why these disease conditions are occurring in the river.”

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