Afield with Friends:Money needed to protect local streams

Recently I read there were several freestone streams in northcentral Pennsylvania that received chemicals from fracking operations. If my notes are correct, Towanda Creek was on that list.

After investigations by agencies, I also read “there appeared to be no damage to aquatic life and the flora and fauna sustaining life in those streams.”

My first thought was, if we never knew the biological structure of the streams, then how could we make quick judgments on damage.

My next thought went back to the main stem of the Susquehanna River, where it is today and what the future holds for our grandchildren. We have to be reminded that existing agencies such as the state departments of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and the Susquehanna Basin Commission have formulated plans and developed technology that could be used as guidelines.

So what is the problem?

In my opinion, the No. 1 problem is finding money to develop scientific studies within the main stem of the Susquehanna and existing branches, and getting those funds into the hands of departments that deal with stream problems on a daily basis.

My thoughts usually go back to the state Fish and Boat Commission, headed up by John Arway, a biologist who understands if our streams support the most fragile aquatic life, such as mayflies, and has the proper fresh water dissolved nutrients to support the lower forms of aquatic life, such as substrate algae and the planktons – then we are on the right track.

Much work has been done on the effect of environmental factors that are triggering diseases and high mortality rates on young bass populations. Nutrient location, sediments, stream flow variation and low dissolved oxygen rates at various times of the season all seem to have an impact on aquatic populations.

What is puzzling to me is the fact that the lower section of Big Pine and the Loyalsock creeks, in spite of all the factors mentioned, is one of the best fisheries on the main stem for smallmouth bass and walleyes, which is, I believe, related to the rocky substrate and quality water that the main stem lacks.

It also is of interest to realize that, while the North Branch of the Susquehanna is fishing well, the West Branch has been going downhill. And there is no question that a lot of effort has gone into the study and to monitor the water quality of the basin, and we can be thankful for that.

We should also remember that we are dealing with a watershed that is more than 200 miles in length from the upper sections of the branches to the Chesapeake Bay, and has similar problems.

To further enhance the Susquehanna Basin, I firmly believe we should tap the colleges and universities by developing strong post-graduate research studies ear-marked to the entire drainage system.

I say that because that is where there is a reservoir of talented kids and professors who could aid in the research that is so badly needed with financial support. The money is out there, we just have to convince our politicians to spend it in the right place by keeping the research in northcentral Pennsylvania and not in Washington or Harrisburg.

Just give us the money and we can see that they get clean water from the main stem.