The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

March 12, 2013

DEP chief says he’d eat river’s smallmouth

By Evamarie Socha
The Daily Item

LEWISBURG — Michael Krancer, secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection, said Tuesday that the Susquehanna River is not impaired and he “will eat anything that comes out of the river with anyone who would eat with me.”

Krancer spoke at the League of Women Voters of the Lewisburg Area lunch at La Primavera Restaurant, where a league-record audience of nearly 70 showed up to hear what had been billed as Krancer’s address on the condition of the West Branch of the Susquehanna.

However, Krancer launched into a talk about Gov. Tom Corbett’s $28.4 billion budget.

League President Janice Bigelow immediately asked Krancer to discuss the river’s health, which was among topics of a question-and-answer period.

“Technically, legally, the river doesn’t meet the criteria to be an impaired waterway,” Krancer said, responding to a Daily Item question. He added that that doesn’t mean state agencies will not work to improve the Susquehanna River’s health and specifically to find what may be causing lesions in its smallmouth bass population.

Krancer challenged classifying the Susquehanna as impaired, saying the label “gives a false impression of waving a magic wand, and the (declaration) changes things. The problems will continue.”

Krancer has maintained for almost a year that a 98-mile stretch of the Susquehanna River, including the West Branch, cannot be declared impaired without proper testing and data identifying the problems with the fish.

This is despite a May 23, 2012, report by the state Fish and Boat Commission making a case for an impairment label. Krancer said recent data from the Fish and Boat Commission and field personnel observations show the river has improved. Ensuring the river’s health will be “a matter of intense study, by DEP and others,” he said.

DEP in conjunction with other groups, including the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, will launch a website within a few weeks that will apprise the public of testing on the Susquehanna River and the results, he said.

“All of us need to work together to discuss the course of action and then do something,” he said.

The topic as billed had drawn one of the largest league lunch crowds, said board member Susan Travis. While many dined, seating was filled with people armed with notebooks who specifically came to hear about the river.  

Audience members raised other environmental concerns, namely air quality emissions of energy sources and climate change.

Krancer drew puzzled reactions from the audience when he cited a statement last month from Rajendra Pachauri, the United Nation’s climate change chief, claiming there has been a 17-year pause in global temperature increases.

Reports from, among other weather and science bodies, have stated that last summer was one of Pennsylvania’s three hottest on record.

The first seven months of 2012 was the second warmest period for the Keystone State, according to the Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell University in New York.