Senator Yaw has been in the news lately with comments on stream maintenance and criticism of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s permitting process. Even The Daily Item in Sunday’s editorial included glowing comments about said senator’s environmental stance.

Yaw’s view of “maintaining streams” in Pennsylvania “to keep them where they are” in areas of bridges is just “like maintaining roads.” Wow! That would earn the senator an F in stream hydrology 101 but then his and other colleagues minds are likely clouded by the methane fog of fracking to the tune of some $4.4 million in direct campaign contributions (Oil Change International).

So, Yaw’s misguided opinion that “you just don’t let them (streams) go,” is contrary to the fact that streams were here long before bridges were constructed and now span them and “all we want to do is correct the streamflow to put it back the way that the bridge was originally designed.” He is also concerned that the streams will continue to destroy the integrity of bridges or roadways. I believe the senator’s thinking is a bit underwater here in the sense that streams will go where they want and will continue as they have done for eons with or without “manmade interventions.”

I have seen firsthand the destruction of the Loyalsock Creek Watershed by natural forces like Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. But it was the frenzied alteration of the stream channels by non-permitted heavy equipment that increased the negative impacts on the aquatic life and fisheries. I can only envision more of those actions as stable stream habitats and riparian vegetation around bridges and beyond succumb to bulldozers and stream beds scoured to “correct stream flows.” I am certainly not proposing that maintenance issues considered serious public hazards not be addressed.

Senator Yaw has also stated that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection needs to find ways to become more “efficient” in responding to permit requests. He also stated that business owners can deal with environmental regulations (likely not) but can’t deal with delays. Reading between the lines here is just the mantra “approve my permit in a short turnaround time, who really cares about the negative environmental costs.” I spent decades as an environmental regulator for both state and federal agencies and it is mostly the case for energy production and monetary gain over environmental damage. In addition, the lack of effective enforcement of existing regulations is equally shameful. Counter to The Daily Item editorial it is unlikely all entities will ever be “pulling in the same direction!”

Michael D. Bilger,


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