Symposium examines Susquehanna

By Rob Duffy

Managing Editor

Students, faculty and administrators from six colleges and universities and various government and environmental organizations gathered to discuss the state of the river in the fifth annual Susquehanna River Symposium last weekend.

The first day of the symposium was devoted to celebrating the river, the second day focusing on environmental issues facing the river.

“If we are not knowledgeable about where we come from, it will become very difficult to find our way home,” said Sid Jamieson of the Haudenosaunee Nation in the symposium’s opening. Jamieson said those who live near the river owe their lives to it. He expressed hope that the symposium would contribute to knowledge about it.

Friday’s events included presentations about the river’s significance and efforts to bring people closer to the river.

Mike Reynolds, Northeast Deputy Regional Director of the National Park Service (NPS), discussed NPS efforts to re-connect people to the outdoors through initiatives such as the Captain John Smith Trail project, which is working to establish a system of recreational areas and trails along the river.

“Your grandchildren will not necessarily remember AIG and Goldman Sachs, but they will know about the river,” Reynolds said.

Professors and students from the University have attempted to demonstrate through research the historical significance of the northern part of the river in the hope of persuading the NPS to create a northward connector trail.

Among the topics for presentations on the second day were fish die-offs, flow management, the lasting impact of logging, water quality, abandoned mine damage remediation and implications of Marcellus Shale drilling.

The keynote speaker, John Arway, executive director of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, discussed the ramifications of the river’s collapsing smallmouth bass population. He said investigations into the causes of the die-offs have revealed high concentrations of inorganic phosphorous, dissolved oxygen levels below EPA thresholds and increasing water temperatures.

“I conclude we have a sick or impaired river,” he said. “It isn’t good.”

Jennifer Hoffman of the Susquehanna River Basin Commission debuted the first-ever State of the Susquehanna Report. The report and its corresponding website aim to make scientific research about the river more easily “relatable” to the public, according to Hoffman.

Hoffman said this first report “establishes a baseline to work off of and to be able to make assessments in the future.”

The river’s health is crucial to the health of the Chesapeake Bay, of which it is a major source. “The reality is the Susquehanna is the Chesapeake, and the Chesapeake is the Susquehanna,” said David O’Neil of the Chesapeake Conservancy.

At the same time, attendees said that the river is vitally important to the people living along it.

“We have 60 towns located on the Susquehanna River,” said Skip Weider, executive director of the Susquehanna River Heartland Coalition for Environmental Studies. “All of our futures depend on that river.”

Students from the participating universities displayed posters about 50 recent research projects involving the river.

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