The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


February 19, 2014

A needle in the haystack

A few years ago I wrote a letter discussing the need for more scientific study to try and find the root cause of the problems affecting small mouth bass in the Susquehanna River.

At the time I was very much in support of the Pennslylvania Fish & Boat Commission’s efforts to have the state DEP designate the main stem of the river as impaired. Over the course of the past few years I have concluded the focus on impairment is far too narrow.

In our effort to dissect the haystack in search for the needle we are missing a very important opportunity, the chance to inventory the haystack. Just as the haystack is comprised of much more than hay and a needle, so is our river comprised of much more then water and fish. I feel we are missing the opportunity to conduct a comprehensive inventory of all the complex components that make up the Susquehanna River.  

It may surprise many readers to find we don’t know what chemical compounds are in the river and those that have been identified are harmful to fish, birds, animals and humans. The Fish and Boat Commission and DEP have spent and are spending millions of dollars searching for the needle while missing the opportunity to inventory the haystack. I am a firm believer that government, state or federal, does a great job at throwing money at problems and then tend to reach conclusions that benefit whichever political party is in power at the time.

It is time for us to call on our local elected officials to support a comprehensive low flow scientific baseline study of the main stem of the Susquehanna River and have that study conducted by our local Heartland Coalition of Universities. We should redirect the current agency funding into grant funds utilized for the purpose of a comprehensive river study conducted free from the influence of any political agenda.

Citizens deserve a compressive baseline study of the river so we and our grandchildren have the data from which to measure the future health of the Susquehanna River. The state is in the process of budget hearings and now is the time to call for our local elected officials to redirect funding toward a non-political, independent study of our river.  

Jim Charles,


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