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Jul 17

Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Intervenes in Conowingo Relicensing

Today Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper, our supporting non-profit Stewards of the Lower Susquehanna, and Waterkeepers Chesapeake asked to be officially included in the relicensing proceedings for the Conowingo Dam, located about 50 miles northeast of Baltimore. Because the dam affects water quality up and down the Susquehanna River, and throughout Chesapeake Bay, we plan to push the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to require the dam’s owner to take action so that the dam doesn’t harm waters in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and beyond. Read our Press Release by clicking here. Read our Motion to Intervene by clicking here.

The presence of this dam on the Susquehanna River has caused major negative impacts to the river and Chesapeake Bay,” said Michael Helfrich, Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper. “Our seven years of research on Conowingo leaves us with no doubt that the unnatural amounts of sediment that are scoured from Conowingo Pond into the bay during major storm events are damaging the bay, making the work of cleaning up the bay even more difficult.  Solutions to this, and other impacts, must be addressed in this relicensing process.”

Jun 20

Bad Court Decision Limits Public Access to Pollution Records

Today the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) announced that it has filed a petition in the Maryland Court of Appeals on behalf of Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper and several other Chesapeake Waterkeeper groups, challenging a May 2, 2013 Court of Special Appeals ruling that permanently prevents public access to agricultural pollution control information.

Americans deserve transparent government. A recent Maryland court ruling undermines this goal by permanently preventing public access to information about how agricultural operations manage their waste. Without access to this information, local communities and citizens cannot be assured that these operations are not polluting the water that Marylanders rely on for drinking, swimming, and fishing.  

Read the press release by clicking here.

Jun 03

Comments to the SRBC re: June 2013 Docket

On June 3 we and other conservation organizations submitted a comment letter to the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) concerning water withdrawal applications it will consider at its June 2013 Business Meeting. Some of the water withdrawals it will consider are, like many from the past 5 years, intended for shale gas fracking operations. And, like many of our previous comment letters, we again told the SRBC that it needs to do more to protect the Susquehanna and its communities from fracking’s water quality impacts.

As many of you have read in the press the SRBC doesn’t want to do more. It doesn’t want to perform a cumulative impacts study of water quality impacts, and it doesn’t want to assess the sufficiency of Pennsylvania’s – a member jurisdiction – quality controls. Yet the SRBC’s guiding document, its Compact, requires it be both an investigator AND planner, duties it has failed to fully perform especially as concerning the water quality impacts arising from shale gas development.

Want to learn more? Read our comment letter by clicking here.

May 10

The Lower Susquehanna River Is Impaired, Maybe?

Yesterday, May 9th 2013 the Region 3 Office of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said the Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection (PADEP) acted within its discretion in listing the Lower Susquehanna River as a ‘Category 3′ waterway with ‘unknown cause(s) of impairment,’ and not a ‘Category 5′ waterway needing a pollution diet (AKA a “TMDL”) on its Final 2012 Integrated Waters Report (2012 IR). Read EPA’s Approval Rationale by clicking here.

The Clean Water Act (CWA) requires states who control their own water quality programs to submit Integrated Reports bi-annually to EPA. These reports, also known as 303(d) or ‘impaired waters’ lists, contain a state’s assessment of waterways’ health, noting which waters fail to meet designated or existing uses as described by state water quality standards.

Whether the Lower Susquehanna River is ‘impaired’ for purposes of PADEP’s 2012 IR has become a hotly contested issue with Pennsylvania’s expert fishery agency – the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) – and environmental groups, like Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper, arguing that this section of river needs official recognition as ‘impaired’ because of the dramatic decline and diseases affecting Smallmouth Bass and other panfish populations. Read the official comments of the PFBC here, and Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper’s comments here.

Michael Helfrich, the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper, had this to say about EPA’s approval of PADEP’s 2012 IR which failed to include an impairment designation for the Lower Susquehanna River:


“It is unfortunate that it appears neither PADEP nor EPA understand their own laws. Everyone agrees that there is an impairment of the River, and everyone who fishes the River will tell you there is an impairment what with the dead and diseased fish and blankets of algae that cover the River. Yet the agencies who are supposed to protect us and our environment refuse to act. The law is clear: evidence of a cause of impairment does not have to be known in order for a waterway to be declared impaired. That – an official recognition of impairment – is what we expected. EPA’s decision is not the end.”

May 06

Coalition Presses for Thorough Review of Dominion Cove Point LNG Export Terminal

Many of you may recall our long efforts aimed at ensuring a proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal, sited in the Chesapeake Bay, undergoes a thorough review process before any decisions are made. Unfortunately those reviews have not occurred and the pressure is on from big business to rush through with the project.

A rushed ‘green light’ for an LNG export terminal in the Chesapeake will mean increased shale gas fracking and new infrastructure like pipelines and compressor stations for upstream watersheds like the Susquehanna, creating increased pollution for our local communities and landscapes, while that gas is shipped overseas for foreign use and corporate profits.

Last week Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper and other environmental organizations intervened in the licensing process before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission  - click here to read our press release and more on why communities and waterways like the Susquehanna deserve better than getting sold down the river for corporate profits and foreign markets’ gas needs.

Quick link to our comments

Quick link to our motion to intervene

Apr 15

2013 Susquehanna Biathlon!

That’s right! The Susquehanna Biathlon is back for 2013 with the same unique run-paddle combination and beautiful course! No other event in Central PA combines two of our favorite hobbies – trail running and river paddling – for the best cause of all: supporting clean water. We hope you will run and paddle with us on June 29th and support Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper’s work keeping our water fishable, swimable, and drinkable!

Please visit for details and registration!

Apr 08

Comments on Proposed EPA Coal Pollution Rule

Coal power plants are the largest polluters of water in the United States. This is particularly true for the Susquehanna Watershed. Unfortunately, rules governing the disposal of coal waste in waterways are dangerously out-of-date. That is why Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper joined a coalition in urging the EPA to update its rules by implementing its proposed “Steam Electric Power Generating Category Effluent Limitation Guidelines.” Click here to read that comment letter to EPA.


Mar 25

More than half of U.S. waterways in poor health

More than half of U.S. rivers and streams are in poor health, U.S. EPA said in a report released today.

The National Rivers and Streams Assessment (click here) is the agency’s first comprehensive survey of waterway health, and it features surveys done by more than 85 field crews during the summers of 2008 and 2009.

Technicians sampled water at 1,924 sites, ranging from mountain headwater streams to the mighty Mississippi River. EPA said the sites were selected using a random sampling technique to ensure that the results reflected the full variety of river and stream types across the nation.

The survey found 55 percent of rivers and streams in poor biological condition, based on measurements of aquatic insects and creatures such as crayfish, while 21 percent were in good condition.

The culprits were not surprising. Forty percent of rivers and streams were found to have high levels of phosphorus, and 28 percent had excessive levels of nitrogen. The nutrients — washed from farms, parking lots and wastewater facilities — feed massive algae growth that sucks up dissolved oxygen as it decomposes, smothering or driving away aquatic life.

The study also found nearly a quarter of the nation’s streams and rivers lack healthy vegetative cover and buffers. Trees and bushes growing along rivers and streams help control flooding and erosion, soak up pollution, and control water temperatures.

Now is the time to get involved! Those leading types of pollution – nutrients, poor buffers & vegetative cover – are exactly the types of issues Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper works to address. Becoming a member means your donation will immediately be put to work on hard-hitting programs that will make a difference in the coming year. Please visit our “Join Us” page to become a member today and help us keep our waterways clean!


Mar 15

The FRESHER Act (repeal industry stormwater exemption)

Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper joined may other organizations this week in urging Congress to adopt Represenative Cartwright’s FRESHER Act. This bill would close a Clean Water Act loophole that exempts oil and gas industry stormwater pollution prevention permit requirement. If passed into law the bill would take the common sense step to repeal this exemption and require the oil and gas industry to meet the same stormwater runoff standards that every other industry meets. Check out our letter in support by clicking here.

Mar 05

Fracking Impacts on Surface Water

Ever wonder what type of surface water impacts fracking creates? PNAS recently published a paper examining the extent to which shale gas development activities affect surface water quality in Pennsylvania. Focusing on the Marcellus Shale, the paper suggests that (a) wastewater treatment and disposal and (b) downstream erosion and sedimentation are the biggest concerns for surface water quality. Click here to read the scientific report.

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