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Dam removal helps American shad return after disappearing for centuries

Biologist Pat Hamilton holds a shad caught near the Warren Glen Dam on the Musconetcong River in Holland Township.

Courtesy of New Jersey Fish and Wildlife

Biologist Pat Hamilton holds a shad caught near the Warren Glen Dam on the Musconetcong River in Holland Township.The American shad is making an impressive come back to the Delaware River watershed.

For the first time in centuries, the American shad entered the Musconetcong River during its spring spawning migration upriver this year. The Musky, as it’s known to locals, is a tributary of the Delaware in Northwestern New Jersey. The Hughesville Dam, standing 18 feet tall and 150 feet wide, had blocked its way.

But with the dam demolished last September, the American shad, the largest of the herring family and an angler’s favorite, swam up the Musconetcong for the first time since colonial times.

“It tells quite a story that as soon as you remove a dam — at least on this river — the shad, the next opportunity, are right there,” said New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife’s principal biologist Pat Hamilton.

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Pollution buildup at dam could harm Chesapeake Bay cleanup

The Conowingo Dam

Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennsylvania

The Conowingo Dam

A decades-long effort to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, the nation’s largest estuary, is showing signs of success. But scientists now say progress could be hindered by a hydroelectric dam, located on the Susquehanna River in northern Maryland.

The Conowingo Dam has been holding back pollution for nearly a century, but recent research shows it has filled up with sediment faster than expected.

“It’s now at a point where it’s essentially, effectively full,” says Bill Ball, director of the Chesapeake Research Consortium. “The capacity’s been reached.”

In 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency imposed strict new pollution limits on state and local governments in the bay watershed to sharply curb nitrogen, phosphorous and sediment by 2025. It was believed the Conowingo Dam would continue trapping sediment until then.

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New Jersey oyster farmers betting on a comeback, climate permitting

The Delaware Bay was once known as the capital oyster of the world. In the 1920s, there were about 600 boats fishing wild oysters from the bay.

Kimberly Paynter/WHYY

The Delaware Bay was once known as the oyster capital of the world. In the 1920s, there were about 600 boats fishing wild oysters from the bay. Today, there are only 12 oyster boats.

Delaware Bay oysters are on their way back after decades of decline. But questions remain on how climate change will impact the resurgence in the South Jersey towns once known for shipping oysters across the country.

Last century, the South Jersey communities of Bivalve and Shell Pile in Cumberland County, produced over 1 million bushels of oysters, or about 80 million pounds, a year. In 1905, there were 588 boats fishing wild oysters from natural beds in the bay. And oysters were shipped, by train, all over the country and up to Canada. In 2016, the oyster fishery harvested 100,095 bushels a year.

“At one time there were car dealers and movie theaters, and department stores, and tons and tons of speakeasies,” Bivalve Bayshore Center’s restaurant manager Sheri Gatier said. “(Bivalve) was a very big thing when the oyster industry was booming. Unfortunately, when (the oysters) died… it died.”

 

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Democratic lawmakers ask FERC to investigate Mariner East 2 pipeline builder

Construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania.

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

Construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania.

Two ranking Democrats in Congress have asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), to further investigate the practices of pipeline builder Energy Transfer Partners, which has merged with Sunoco Logistics, after spills and permit violations occurred on two of its major projects in three different states, including the Mariner East 2 pipeline here in Pennsylvania.

In a letter to FERC last Thursday, Congressman Frank Pallone Jr., and Washington state Senator Maria Cantwell, detail recent spills in Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, and criticize the company for misleading regulators by destroying an historic home in Ohio. StateImpact reported recently on a judge ordering ETP/Sunoco to stop construction on a valve station in West Goshen Township, where the company began building a valve station at a location the township had not agreed to.

For more on StateImpact’s investigation into Sunoco’s construction issues, listen here:

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After years of debate, severance tax saga continues

State capitol

Scott LaMar / WITF-FM

Pennsylvania remains the only major gas-producing state in the country without a severance tax. This fact has been a major sticking point in Harrisburg– for a really long time.

Now state lawmakers are once again looking to place new taxes on natural gas drillers. A gas severance tax the Senate approved this week is expected to bring in $100 million to help plug a $2.2 billion budget hole. The measure has an uncertain future in the Republican-controlled House. Still, it’s the closest the state has gotten to enacting such a tax in nearly a decade.

We looked back at how debate has unfolded over the years:

In 2009, the state House-which was then controlled by Democrats-passed a severance tax. It was defeated by Republicans in the Senate.

And while talk over the tax continued in subsequent years, Pennsylvania’s natural production has skyrocketed. Last year alone, it topped 5 trillion cubic feet, almost as much as the entire nation of Qatar.

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Remembering the Quecreek Mine Rescue 15 years later

FILE: The ninth and final miner is removed from the Quecreek Mine, seen in this July 28, 2002, file photo, in Somerset, Pa.

AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, Pool

FILE: The ninth and final miner is removed from the Quecreek Mine, seen in this July 28, 2002, file photo, in Somerset, Pa.

This week marks the 15th anniversary of the Quecreek Mine Rescue. From July 24 through the 28, 2002, nine miners were trapped underground in a Somerset County coal mine.

All nine men survived the 77 hour ordeal.

On WITF’s Smart Talk Monday, former Governor Mark Schweiker and former Department of Environmental Protection Secretary David Hess remember what it was like for those on the surface trying to bring the miners to safety.

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How one Philadelphia neighborhood battles rising tides

A man waves for a tow truck after getting swamped trying to cross a flooded section of the Cobbs Creek Parkway, Wednesday, April 30, 2014, in Philadelphia. Cobbs Creek and Darby Creek merge in the Eastwick section of Philadelphia where flooding is expected to get worse due to rising sea levels.

AP Photo

A man waves for a tow truck after getting swamped trying to cross a flooded section of the Cobbs Creek Parkway, Wednesday, April 30, 2014, in Philadelphia. Cobbs Creek and Darby Creek merge in the Eastwick section of Philadelphia where flooding is expected to get worse due to rising sea levels.

Joining dozens of communities across the country Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney announced Wednesday he has committed the city to a goal of 100 percent clean energy. It’s part of a growing effort by cities and states to reduce their carbon footprint in the wake of President Trump pulling out of the Paris Agreement, a landmark international effort to cut global carbon emissions to reduce the worst impacts of climate change.

In the Philadelphia region, climate scientists say those impacts will include hotter summers, greater rain fall and floods.

One city neighborhood is already working on how to respond to rising sea levels. Climate change is not theoretical for residents of Eastwick, a neighborhood built over a marsh in southwest Philadelphia. The area is already subject to frequent and severe flooding, and researchers say it will only get worse.

At least ten high flow events since 1999 have seriously damaged about 130 properties and city infrastructure, according to the Philadelphia Water Department.

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Citizen lobbyists make progress with Republicans on climate

Activists gather outside the White House in Washington, Thursday, June 1, 2017, to protest President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw the Unites States from the Paris climate change accord.

AP Photo / Susan Walsh

Activists gather outside the White House in Washington, Thursday, June 1, 2017, to protest President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw the Unites States from the Paris climate change accord. Some Republican members of congress have joined the Climate Solutions Caucus, and opposed the pull-out.

Citizen lobbyist Jay Butera believes in the power of polite persistence. Nearly every week for the past 10 years, he has taken the Amtrak train down to Washington D.C. from his home in Montgomery County to convince congress to take action on climate.

“There were times when it felt like this is not going to happen,” said Butera. “This is impossible, this is the most polarized issue in congress.”

Butera is a successful entrepreneur, having created and sold two businesses. But instead of courting investors, he now spends all his time volunteering with the Citizen’s Climate Lobby. He says he’s had hundreds of conversations with Republican aides and congressmen.

But despite the recent election that had Republicans take control of both houses of Congress and the White House, Butera is suddenly having some success. And it’s not just with Democrats. Continue Reading

Philadelphia aims to cash in on solar job boom

Dennis Hajnik installs solar panels on a roof in Bryn Mawr, Delaware County.

Emma Lee / WHYY

Dennis Hajnik installs solar panels on a roof in Bryn Mawr, Delaware County. Philadelphia has a plan to bring those panels to 500 city rooftops by the end of 2018, which it says will create 75 new jobs.

On a rooftop in Bryn Mawr, Delaware County, four men are working to install 18 solar panels on top of a four-bedroom house. They wear safety harnesses and helmets, lowering down one solar panel at a time onto metal frames. One is 21-year-old Thomas Glenn. Several years ago, Glenn dropped out of high school and was living with his parents in the Kensington section of North Philadelphia.

“You know, I was playing video games all day, listening to music,” Glenn said. “At the time I was waiting until I turned 18 so I would become a security guard or I was going to work at McDonalds.”

Glenn says solar helped turn his life around. After getting his G-E-D, he ended up in a training program for city youth, which led to this job with a small solar company.

“The money’s good, you get nice long hours and you’re doing something good,” he said.

He’s now living on his own, making $15 an hour. The more experienced crew members are making between $20 and $25 an hour.

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Lawmaker wants pipeline protesters to pay for police, cleanup costs

Feb. 22, 2017: Refuse remained in the Dakota Access pipeline opponents' main protest camp as a fire burns in the background in southern North Dakota near Cannon Ball, N.D.

AP Photo/Blake Nicholson

Feb. 22, 2017: Refuse remained in the Dakota Access pipeline opponents' main protest camp as a fire burns in the background in southern North Dakota near Cannon Ball, N.D.

New pipelines designed to carry Pennsylvania’s shale gas have taken center stage in a controversy over climate change, private property rights, and the nation’s energy future.

Protests have emerged all over the country, including an encampment in Lancaster County, where activists hope to disrupt construction of the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline–an interstate gas transmission line approved by federal regulators earlier this year.

After the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s protest against the Dakota Access oil pipeline last year led to millions of dollars in cleanup and law enforcement costs, Sen. Scott Martin (R- Lancaster) plans to introduce legislation soon that would shied the public from the costs associated with protests, and make the activists pick up the tab.

However, the move raises First Amendment issues and is part of a broader national trend among state legislators to curb or limit protesting.

Friday on WITF’s Smart Talk, we discuss this issue, and a new bill that would preemptively ban local governments in Pennsylvania from imposing bans or fees on plastic bags.

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