Susquehanna a river in peril
The Susquehanna River winds its way for 464 miles from Cooperstown to the Chesapeake Bay and all along the way it picks up nutrients from farms, villages, towns and private septic systems. These nutrients are causing problems and officials in Pennsylvania are urging people to do something about it.
When I was a kid fishing the river for smallmouth bass, aquatic and shore grasses were plentiful and, as we walked up river to our fishing spot, hundreds and perhaps thousands of small frogs hopped out of our way. Entering the water, we saw various species of minnows, crayfish and juvenile bass in the shallows, but all that’s changed. Last summer I took my grandson to meet my brother for a day of fishing on the river and what I noticed appalled me. There were no frogs hopping among the rocks on shore and the various grasses, once so common, were nowhere to be seen. What was worse, I didn’t see a single minnow or small fish of any description in the shallow water near shore.
Mounting evidence presented by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission demonstrates the river is sick and needs help. According to a Commission report, data reveals both the minimum daily dissolved oxygen concentration and pH fail to meet the federal- and state-established criteria for the protected use of warmwater fishes. The failure to meet these criteria stresses young-of-year smallmouth bass and causes them to get sick and die. Not only that but dissolved phosphorus levels are increasing at exponential rates, resulting in large and unprecedented harmful blooms of nuisance algae which deplete oxygen form the river’s water.
Scientific studies have documented that smallmouth bass populations have been steadily declining since the early 2000s. This data is supported by countless angler claims of a diminishing population. As if that’s not enough, in some sections of the river gross lesions and disease are decimating the young-of-the-year smallmouth bass, resulting in extremely poor survival from one year to the next. According to the report, the river has not experienced a successful year class of smallmouth bass since 2005. Not scared yet? The report states the Susquehanna River has a high incidence of an intersex condition, which means male fish are being discovered with female cells or the precursors to female cells.
The EPA is dragging its feet and so far has failed to classify the Susquehanna as “impared” because once they do they are obligated to deal with the problem. It’s felt due to budgetary constraints the agency is reluctant to do so.
Pennsylvania officials have stated the Susquehanna River is sick and official action needs to be taken to address the poor water quality which impacts the fishery and the citizens, businesses, and visitors in both Pennsylvania and New York. Officials of the PFBC are urging citizens, sportsmen and anyone who cares about the river to contact their elected officials and give them two simple messages. Tell them what the Susquehanna River means to you and ask them to tell EPA to put a plan in place to fix the Susquehanna River before it is too late.