ANSONIA - A small group of state and federal officials and local environmental organizations released 308 American eels Friday afternoon into Pine Creek near the Darling Run access area.
The hope is that the eels will begin a long relationship as host to the larvae of the Eastern elliptio, a freshwater mussel whose numbers had been depleted in the Susquehanna River Basin because of hydroelectric dams on the river. Pine Creek is a tributary to the West Branch of the Susquehanna River.
As the population of the mussel increases over time, the hope also is that their natural function of filtering sediment and pollu-
BRYAN G. ROBINSON/Sun-Gazette Correspondent
Vinca Krajewski, right, intern with the U.S. Geological Survey’s Northern Appalachia Research Laboratory in Asaph near Wellsboro, scoops out American eels from a cooler with a net to a dish pan to her mother, Ellen Krajewski, Friday afternoon before the eels were to be released into Pine Creek.
tion from the water will lead to a cleaner Pine Creek, Susquehanna River and Chesapeake Bay.
For example, 280 million Eastern elliptio are in the Delaware River and filter 2 to 6 billion gallons of water and remove 78 tons of sediment per day, according to Bill Lellis, director of the U.S. Geological Survey, Northern Appalachian Research Laboratory in Asaph near Wellsboro.
The laboratory was built in the late 1970s as part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under the U.S. Department of the Interior primarily as a hatchery, but since has evolved into a facility for research for the U.S. Geological Survey, which oversees geology, water, geography and biology and is still under the Department of the Interior.
During a presentation at the lab before the release of the eels, Lellis explained that the research that led to the release started 15 years ago and would continue after the release, which was timed to coincide with spawning of the mussels.
"It will take three to four years to know if it's working," he said.
"There are a lot of different pieces to ecosystem recovery," said Megan Lehman, environmental planner with Lycoming County. "However, whatever ways we can do it naturally are for the better."
A $1,500 collaborative grant from the Pennsylvania Audubon Society provided funding for the project, which will include tagging and releasing larger eels into the creek later this summer and collecting histories of past mussel population. In all, about 1,000 eels will be released over the next few weeks.
"We'll try to interview elderly people to see if they have experience with mussels and eels," said Phil Krajewski, president of the Tiadaghton Audubon Society, which applied for the grant in January.
Another small amount will be used for transporting the eels several times from the Conowingo Dam in Maryland at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay to different locations along Pine Creek, where more will be released.
Asked why the Audubon Society, known more for birds, was involved, Krajewski noted that the society also is involved with habitat restoration.
"It's all connected," he said.