By JOHN ARWAY
Here at the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC), we pride ourselves on being transparent and accountable to the anglers and boaters of Pennsylvania. As part of that commitment, we like to talk personally with those of you who care about and are impacted by our decisions and activities.
On Wednesday, I cordially invite you to join the PFBC, the Lycoming College Clean Water Institute, the Pennsylvania Council of Trout Unlimited, and the Susquehanna River Heartland Coalition for Environmental Studies for a special conservation issues forum.
We will be covering three topics at the event.
First on the agenda, I will personally explain the PFBC's recent decision to enter into a non-surface use oil and gas cooperative agreement for the development of natural gas under our Rose Valley Lake property. I will describe the decision-making that took place before we entered into the agreement and reassure those of you who love Rose Valley Lake that we are dedicated to maintaining the ecological and recreational integrity of the lake and the surrounding lands under our stewardship.
All money from these and other natural gas agreements will be deposited into a special account where they will be used to fund efforts to repair or rebuild Commonwealth-owned high-hazard, unsafe dams managed by our agency. The PFBC is responsible for managing dams which need approximately $34 million in repairs, and our Natural Gas and Water Access Program is one way of raising the funds to fix these facilities so communities can continue to enjoy them.
Second up will be our Susquehanna River Biologist Geoff Smith, who will present the latest data related to the water quality in the Susquehanna River and the staggering decline of much of the river's world-renowned smallmouth bass fishery. Geoff will explain the work that has been done to date to try to diagnose the causes of the disease that has been killing young-of-year smallmouth bass for almost a decade and has most recently resulted in unsightly lesions and open sores on adult bass.
Even if you cannot join us on May 23, I encourage you to join the growing chorus of advocates who are calling on the Department of Environmental Protection to include the Susquehanna on its forthcoming list of impaired and threatened waters, commonly known as the 303(d) list. DEP is accepting public comments on its draft list (which, unfortunately, does not include the Susquehanna at this point) through May 22.
Finally, Dr. Mel Zimmerman from Lycoming College, Larry Brannaka from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and PFBC Fisheries Biologist Tom Shervinskie will offer an ecological perspective on the emotional issue of stream channel clean-up. They will turn the discussion from one of channelization to one that focuses on how habitats that support healthy aquatic communities can be compatible with long-term flood minimization.
Bring a friend, a relative, a fellow angler or boater, or anyone who you think might have an interest in the subjects we will be covering. While the three topics will each likely attract their own sets of interested attendees, we think the three of them together will make for a well-rounded, interesting, and meaningful evening.
I look forward to personally welcoming you and having an open and frank discussion of the issues. The event will take place from 6:30 9:00 p.m. in Room G-11 of the Heim Science Building at Lycoming College. School will not be in session, so there should be plenty of parking spaces.
Arway is executive director of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.