Troubled Waters?

Ron SteffeI suppose it would be best to start by telling you simply that the Upper Delaware River system, which includes the well known West Branch, is an absolute incredible fishery mostly surrounded by unblemished scenery.

This is a world renowned trout-fishing destination, with a population of self-sustained – truly wild – rainbows and browns.

I spent the past weekend in this area, courtesy of the Trout Unlimited organization. I floated the main branch for five hours, missed four strikes and watched a monster brown trout turn from my fly at the last possible moment, but I landed no fish.

In truth, that did not disappoint.

Everywhere were aquatic insects, sulfurs mostly, and big wild trout forming a splatter of water as they fed on the abundance. Woods and meadows lined the shoreline, and for a brief period of time I was sheltered from any suggestion of human presence.

But like so many of the world’s unspoiled venues under the constant threat of human modification, this area, too, faces a serious threat from the extraction of natural gas from Marcellus Shale.

However, owing to the vigilant people of Trout Unlimited, the big river and its environs has a strong influence doing battle with the giants of the oil industry to protect and preserve a natural wonder.

There are a host of people involved with this struggle, but three young ladies sit atop my list as they spearhead the fight to protect this natural treasure.

Erin Mooney, national press secretary for Trout Unlimited, Katy Dunlap, eastern water project director for TU, and Paula Piatt, sportsman organizer for the same organization, possess a wealth of knowledge and drive to make certain any and every venture pursued in the name of “energy extraction,” is first publicly known and carefully considered.

One example of their diligence involves the Oquaga Creek. A 2011 proposal to withdraw 250,000 gallons of water per day from this creek for an exploratory well, was presented to the Delaware River Basin Commission.

The Oquaga is a beautiful feeder stream for the West Branch, and a daily loss of 250,000 gallons would have been damaging to its ecosystem. But by organizing a quick response of more than 1,600 TU members appealing the application, these influential few persuaded the River Basin commission to deny the application.

Clearly, good people doing good work.

It’s impossible to place a value on nature’s perfection, and for an outdoor-loving individual such as myself, I find more worth in a little woodland stream than any structure or machine mankind has ever built.

I just thank the heavens there are people constantly working, behind the scenes, to preserve our precious natural resources.

Categories: Pennsylvania – Ron Steffe

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