Susquehanna River named most endangered river for good reason

When the Susquehanna River was named the most endangered river
in the country on May 17 by American Rivers, you would think it
would’ve triggered a proactive reaction from group’s such as the
Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC).

But in a strange twist, the organization attempted to downplay
the designation and go on the defensive.

American Rivers listed the Susquehanna as the nation’s most
endangered river because it is concerned about the threats posed by
booming natural gas drilling in the watershed.

It’s a viable concern.

The Susquehanna River provides drinking water to more than six
million people. It’s contributes more than half of the water going
into the Chesapeake Bay.

It’s also a tremendous smallmouth bass fishery and home to a
thriving aquatic ecosystem.

Already there’s been blowouts, leaks and mishaps with natural gas
drilling that have resulted in water contamination within the
Susquehanna’s watershed. Water withdrawals needed to make the
drilling of thousands of planned wells possible is also a potential
threat.

By designating the Susquehanna as the most endangered river,
American Rivers is telling us to slow down a bit and make sure the
proper safeguards are in place so the river and its watershed
aren’t severely and permanently impacted.

That’s the right approach.

American Rivers also called on Pennsylvania and the SRBC to issue a
moratorium on gas drilling within the river’s watershed until it’s
absolutely certain that things are being done in the safest manner
possible.

The SRBC responded days after the designation was announced, and it
basically passed the buck.

The SRBC disagreed with the call for a moratorium, saying that is
something that states should handle. Yet, in a statement released
by SRBC executive director Paul O. Swartz, he wrote “It is SRBC’s
job to wisely manage and conserve the water resources of the basin
while encouraging their sustainable use and development. That is
SRBC’s prescribed mission.”

Take a look at the reasons the state Department of Environmental
Protection recently fined Chesapeake $1 million, and I really have
to question whether things are being wisely managed right
now.

The SRBC claims its only role in the regulation of gas drilling is
with water withdrawals and it has nothing to do with water
quality.

I disagree.

When the SRBC allows gas companies to withdraw millions of gallons
from the river and its tributaries, that affects water
quality.

Regardless of the fact that the SRBC refuses to admit it plays a
role in water quality or that it knows gas drilling can have a
negative impact on the river and its watershed, the commission did
just that in a roundabout way.

In Swartz’s statement, he mentions the SRBC’s newest monitoring
program – the Remote Water Quality Monitoring Network. He also
stated that the organization has installed nearly 40 new monitoring
stations in the state’s northern tier “where natural gas drilling
is most active.”

Now that’s a good move, and it’s one that indicates the SRBC does
have a role in water quality and does have a concern that gas
drilling can impact it.

Rather than take an adversarial position with American Rivers and
its designation of the Susquehanna, groups like the SRBC should
simply take notice. Sit down with American Rivers, find a common
ground and come up with a plan to improve the situation.

After all, one would hope that all the organizations involved can
agree that protecting the Susquehanna and its watershed is
something that needs a proactive approach.

Categories: Pennsylvania – Tom Venesky

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