As expected, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) did not place the Susquehanna River on its official list of polluted waterways despite requests by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) and angling, environmental and conservation organizations requests for it to do so.
PFBC executive director, John Arway expressed his disappointment over DEP’s refusal to list the river as impaired, “The collapse of the smallmouth bass population supports an ecological impairment designation and the associated decline in sport fishing and boating continues to support a recreational use impairment designation,” he said. “To refuse to accept and recognize these facts suggests that other factors associated with these designations may drive the decision not to list.”
The once world-class bass fishery has been in serious decline since 2005 when disease began wiping out young bass. Today, anglers are catching sick bass with lesions, cancers and black blotches. Arway argues that the condition of the bass fishery itself justifies listing the river as impaired which would start a process to develop a plan to clean up the pollution in the river that is sickening and killing the bass.
DEP maintains that the river’s problems need more study – and that should indeed be done. But further study should not delay taking action now to start the hard work of cleaning up the Susquehanna. An “impaired” designation would hold DEP’s feet to the fire to begin to crack down on the pollution that is degrading this once-great waterway and decimating a prime recreational fishery.