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Pa. Fish and Boat Commission Clashes with DEP Over Susquehanna River

Pennsylvania’s Fish and Boat Commission executive director John Arway says the Department of Environmental Protection needs to do more to protect aquatic life and water quality along 98 miles of the Susquehanna River. Arway takes aim at DEP Secretary Michael Krancer’s decision not to seek an “impaired” status for the river may not be driven by science, but rather “other factors.”
An “impaired” designation by the EPA could boost efforts to clean up the river.
Arway issued a statement on Tuesday in direct response to the Department of Environmental Protection’s announcement on Monday that there is no science to support the fact that the river should come under any special protections through the federal Clean Water Act. Every two years, the DEP reports on the health of the state’s waterways to federal regulators at the EPA. The Fish and Boat Commission had previously urged DEP to seek a listing of the river as “impaired” due to mysterious lesions on small mouth bass, and intersexing of fish.
In the statement released on Monday afternoon, DEP Secretary Michael Krancer promised to work with the Fish and Boat Commission, the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, and the U.S. Geological Survey to study the health of the river’s aquatic life.
But Arway says these efforts “fall short” of what is needed, and says DEP has failed to disclose the scientific data that guided their decision.
“The PFBC has been fully transparent with its information about every study that we and others have done over the course of the past 20 years,” said Arway in a written statement.  “All that we ask is for DEP to open their files in much the same way since Aristotle defined science as the body of reliable knowledge that can be logically and rationally explained.  It therefore involves the totality of evidence and the discussion cannot continue unless DEP is forthcoming with their data.”
But DEP says they have detailed the science behind their decision through their “integrated water quality report” to the EPA.
The “impaired” listing, known as 303(d), would mean the river would come under certain federal criteria for discharges of pollutants, and studies would be prioritized to determine what is causing disease among the fish. States create new lists every two years, and send them to the EPA for review.
Arway says there is plenty of evidence to support an “impaired” listing of 98 miles of river via the federal Clean Water Act.
“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,” says Arway.  “To refuse to accept and recognize these facts suggests that other factors associated with these designations may drive the decision not to list.”
Arway is urging anglers and those concerned about the health of the river to appeal directly to the EPA through their elected representatives.

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