Mar 12

Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Update 3-12-14

Howdy River Folks,

As always, we are busy as can be representing your interests in the Susquehanna Valley and Chesapeake Bay Watershed.  We’ve been working on our top five priorities: smallmouth bass die-offs in the Susquehanna and other Chesapeake tributaries; effects of fracking on our waterways; effects of Susquehanna sediment on the Chesapeake Bay; the Chesapeake watershed pollution reduction plan (TMDL); and the expansion of Lancaster’s landfill on the banks of the Susquehanna.  Here are some updates, and a request for action.

Cobie Bean (1969-2014)

First I want to recognize one of our great volunteers, and one of my closest friends, Cobie Bean.  Cobie was a volunteer with us from the earliest creek clean-up I organized in 2002.  More recently, she was standing up for her Wrightsville/ Long Level community against the expansion of the Lancaster landfill.  She was a friend and gift to all river-lovers and all who knew her.  She passed away unexpectedly in her sleep late last month.  We will miss her hard work and sunshine.  Thank you to her friends and family that asked mourners to donate to Stewards of the Lower Susquehanna in lieu of flowers.  Read more about the landfill expansion that Cobie was opposing here:

Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, Smallmouth Bass, and new pollution from fracking

We need your HELP on this one.  Please join us in commenting on the proposed Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement. This is a voluntary agreement between the states, D.C. and federal government about what they are willing to do to protect our waterways and the bay. Unfortunately, the draft that is out for comment is deficient in content, including nothing about protecting our river and the Shenandoah and Potomac from what is killing our smallmouth bass, or the increasing runoff pollution caused by all of the new dirt roads, pipelines, and well-pads associated with the rapid growth in natural gas drilling. In addition to content, the “Agreement” has an opt-out clause where even if they sign the agreement, they can say they don’t want to actually do what the Agreement says. Please read our comments on our website and send your own (the address to send them to is on our letter). A copy of the draft Agreement is also available at the link below. Deadline for comments is this Monday, March 17th.

Conowingo Re-Licensing and Research

On January 31st, working with EarthJustice and Waterkeepers Chesapeake, SOLS filed nearly 50 pages of comments to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission demanding that FERC require the re-establishment of the American eel in the Susquehanna ( a key species in the ecosystem), proper passage for these migratory fish, a plan for Exelon to commit to further studies and plans to address sediment build-up at Conowingo Dam, and the re-opening and improvements of recreational fishing opportunities at the catwalk below the dam.  Read our extensive comments here:

Comments to FERC relicensing of Conowingo Dam

Meeting with SRBC on how they regulate water withdrawals for fracking

On March 6th SOLS organized a meeting between the staff of SRBC and a group of concerned organizations including the League of Women Voters, Sierra Club of PA, PennFuture, EarthWorks, and the Responsible Drilling Alliance.  During this two-hour meeting we learned a great deal about the processes and monitoring that SRBC has in place to protect our waterways from impacts of withdrawals of water.  From our side we explained that the withdrawals are still the “gateways” to all of the other negative impacts that shale gas development causes such as the erosion and fragmentation from land use changes from forests and farmlands to well-pads, dirt roads and pipelines.  These impacts fall under PA DEP oversight, and they are not doing their jobs to protect our waterways and communities.  We also told them that we will continue to pressure them to do an overall Environmental Impact Study of every aspect of the natural gas fracking industry, including effects of projected growth.  DEP should be doing this, but they refuse, so we believe the SRBC is the next responsible party. This pressure for SRBC to do the needed studies continues to grow as we build evidence of DEP’s many failures to protect us.

Doing your part

If you agree with the direction that we are going, we need your help.  Send us your contact info and your interests so we can send you information specific to your interests.  If you are not yet a member, please become a member at .  You can also make contributions (and save paypal charges) by sending donations to us at: SOLS 2098 Long Level Rd Wrightsville, PA 17368.  We recognize that most people don’t have time to commit to these issues themselves, and that’s why we are here every day, working for you, your children, and your communities.  We take no government funding, so our work will only continue if you believe in it, and can share a little of your “green energy” with us.

Thank you.

From the Mighty Susquehanna, 

                                                        Michael Helfrich

                                                        Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper

Mar 12

Comments to FERC Relicensing of Conowingo Dam

Comments to FERC Relicensing of Conowingo Dam

Please click the link below to read comments from The Stewards of the Lower Susquehanna, The Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper and the Waterkeepers Chesapeake

SOLS FERC Conowingo Comments

Mar 07

Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper aims to correct faulty Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement

Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper aims to correct faulty Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement

Please send your own comments in (address provided in our letter).  It is very important that they hear from individuals, as they are only counting any group sign-ons or petitions as a single comment.

Our Riverkeeper addresses the biggest fault in the Agreement.  “It also appears that in this section the jurisdictions’ “commitments” to the Agreement fall short.  In fact, this section contradicts the definition of commitment. Merriam-Webster defines “to commit”, in the relevant definition, as to “obligate” or “bind”.  … “Discretion to participate” is not a commitment.  This lack of commitment causes a  conflict with potential funding of jurisdictions. Section 117(e) of the Clean Water Act directs the Environmental Protection Agency to issue grant money to the Agreement signatories to   implement programs in the Agreement, but only “if a signatory has approved and committed to implement all or substantially all aspects of the Chesapeake Bay Agreement.”   As the draft Agreement stands, upon signing the Agreement, none of the signatories would approve and commit to implement all or substantially all of the Agreement. ”

Click here to read the Draft Chesapeake Watershed Agreement

Click here to read SOLS comments on Watershed Agreement

Jan 15

Response Letter to SRBC Concerning Drilling Pollution In Pennsylvania

Since fracking began in the Susquehanna River Basin, Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper has been an unrelenting voice for the key role of science in all decisionmaking. We’ve said time and again that allowing any type of industrial-style development, let alone fracking, without first doing the requisite scientific analysis of potential impacts unnecessarily risks community and waterway health. In particular, we’ve advocated for years that the Susquehanna River Basin Commission – the interstate compact agency with authority over a river basin stretching through three states and which provides half of the Chesapeake Bay’s freshwater – needs to take the initiative and conduct a basin wide, cumulative study of fracking’s impacts.

Today we submitted this letter to the SRBC, the latest in a string of comment letters pointing out technical deficiencies in Pennsylvania’s water quality regulatory programs. As a member jurisdiction of the SRBC Pennsylvania is obligated to do its part in protecting water quality, a role that – as this letter illustrates – it is largely neglecting in regards to shale gas development. We believe the facts presented are sufficient evidence for the SRBC to take the initiative and, in an open, transparent fashion and in partnership with stakeholders, create and conduct a meaningful cumulative impact analysis of shale gas development’s impacts to water resources of the Susquehanna River Basin.

Families, communities and waterways of the Susquehanna and Chesapeake Bay deserve nothing less than the proactive scientific investigation that informs strong rules which protect human and ecological health.

Jan 10

PADEP’s Proposed Stream Crossings Permit Threatens Susq Watersheds

Proposed Revisions to PA General Permit GW-8 Sacrifice Watershed Protection in favor of Easy Permit Approvals

in November 2013, DEP published notice in the Pennsylvania Bulletin of its proposal to significantly modify the Chapter 105 General Permit 8 (GP-8). Currently authorizing only temporary road crossings of streams and wetlands, the proposed and expanded permit would authorize the construction and removal of temporary pipelines that could remain in place for up to two years. It would also allow large-capacity (up to 24 inches in diameter) pipelines to carry “pollutional materials,” a term that is not defined but presumably would include fracturing and flowback fluids.

The proposed GP-8 would allow pipelines to be constructed through an unlimited number of wetlands and streams, including Exceptional Value waters, with no restrictions on the length or area of wetland or stream impacts. Like all General Permit registrations, GP-8 activities would not be published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin, thus greatly reducing the opportunity for public review and input. This all means that the Susquehanna River Basin, which is already experiencing significant degradation of its headwaters streams and wetlands due to intensive shale gas related industrial development, would be further compromised by yet another “sanctioned” method of pollution.

Because the proposed GP-8 seems intended to satisfy industry’s wish for expedited approvals at the expense of water resource protection we submitted this technical comment letter illustrating proposed GW-8’s deficiencies. Waterways, wetlands and communities of the Susquehanna deserve better than the proposed GW-8 permit.

Sep 13

With LNG Export Approval, DOE Shortchanges American Public, Ignores Economic and Safety Concerns

With LNG Export Approval, DOE Shortchanges American Public, Ignores Economic and Safety Concerns Cove Point project would hike energy costs, threaten public safety, harm Chesapeake Bay

WASHINGTON, DC – The Department of Energy announced today it had granted conditional approval to the Dominion Cove Point LNG facility to export liquefied natural gas to non-free trade agreement countries, pending an environmental review by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

The $3.8 billion project would transform a sleepy natural gas import facility on the Chesapeake Bay into a massive export hub and hasten the already hectic pace of fracking for natural gas in the nearby Marcellus and Utica shale regions.

But as recently as last week, FERC regulators were raising concerns with Dominion about the safety of the project pointing to the potential for a “fireball” connected to on-site chemical storage. And while economic benefits of the project are heavily in dispute, all experts agree that it would raise domestic energy prices.

Dominion still faces major hurdles before the project can proceed. The company needs approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which has yet to complete its environmental review. Dominion also needs approval from Maryland utility regulators as well as more than 60 permits and approvals. There is still pending litigation over whether Dominion has the right to build this facility or if it breaks an earlier legal agreement with Sierra Club.

The following are statements from groups that have aligned in opposition to this project:

“Dominion managed to convince the Department of Energy that exploiting the people of the Marcellus and Utica shale regions for the sake of the oil and gas industry was a good idea. But they’ve still got a long way to go before they can convince the rest of us that we should pay higher fuel prices, sacrifice our safety, and threaten public health. Dominion should be prepared to face stiff resistance at each remaining step in their ongoing approval process,” said Jocelyn D’Ambrosio, associate attorney with the non-profit environmental law group Earthjustice.

“DOE’s decision to authorize DCP’s proposed LNG export plan, even though conditioned on yet-to-be-performed environmental reviews, smacks of poor decisionmaking. Instead of choosing to examine the propriety of LNG export programmatically, across the nation, DOE appears to be allowing each proposed export facility to take a substantial step forward without the type of reasoned analysis the public and affected communities deserve. Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper will continue to demand that DOE reconcile the negative impacts that LNG export entails for upstream communities like the Susquehanna before any final authorizations take place,” said Guy Alsentzer of Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper.

“The U.S Department of Energy does not speak for the Marylanders who would pay the price of exporting fracked gas from Cove Point. Let’s be clear: Dominion still has a steep hill to climb in receiving the necessary federal and state permits. Marylanders will be mobilizing every step of the way to challenge their plans, which threaten to virtually cover our region in new pipelines, processing plants and fracking wells,” said Mike Tidwell, Director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

“Today’s DOE approval shows once again that the oil and gas industry does not care about domestic energy independence, which is what they sold the American public. They only care about profits even when it harms local communities, fractures our most pristine forests and risks our local rivers and drinking water supplies,” said Robin Broder of Potomac Riverkeeper.

“With the Department of Energy (DOE) today conditionally authorizing Dominion Resources to export gas from a liquefied natural gas terminal in Cove Point, Maryland, it is deeply disappointing to see that Secretary Moniz persists in leading the nation and the world to into a dirty energy future. It’s a bad deal all around: for public health, the environment, and America’s working people.  The Sierra Club has been granted party status in this docket, and will hold DOE to its commitment to fully review environmental issues before deciding whether to issue final authorization. We will also monitor all other permits and approvals that the Cove Point Facility will require, and will take action as necessary.  Additionally, Sierra Club continues to seek enforcement of a decades-old agreement between the Sierra Club and Dominion Cove Point LNG which clearly prohibits expansion of this facility to allow for exports.  The Sierra Club intends to hold Dominion accountable for complying with the commitments it made to protect the Cove Point environment,” said Deb Nardone, Director of Sierra Club’s Beyond Natural Gas Campaign.

Aug 12

The Best Choice For The Susquehanna River, Choose to Re-Open Creswell Landfill

The Best Choice For The Susquehanna River, Choose To Re-Open Creswell Landfill.

Did you know that the Frey Farm Landfill, which overlooks the Susquehanna River at Lake Clarke, is almost full? It’s true – landfills have an expiration date and, once full, need to be expanded or closed down. Frey Farm Landfill already overlooks our scenic river, but under its current permit, cannot grow any larger. But now the owners of Frey Farm Landfill – Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority (LCSWMA) – want to expand that landfill, VERTICALLY!!

If LCSWMA’s permit request is granted, our beautiful viewshed – specifically the shores of Lancaster County visible from York County – will have a new eyesore: a towering landfill on the horizon. Even worse, the 60-foot vertical expansion would not only degrade the aesthetics of the Lower Susquehanna River, but also poses unknown risks by placing an additional 10 million cubic yards of waste next to the river, something we can all agree isn’t in the best interests of the river or its communities.

There is, however, a good solution that allows Lancaster County to responsibly handle its wastes while simultaneously preserving the aesthetics of the Lower Susquehanna River and Lake Clarke.

Click Here to see the Frey Farm Landfill Action Handout

Aug 07

2013 Susquehanna Biathlon results

        2013 Susquehanna Biathlon results

The biathlon was a great success, thank you to all who participated in this year’s race, we are pleased to announce the results:

1. #246 Joe McMaster, 54 min

2. #229 Kev Hawn, 56 min

3. #228 Pat Reilly, 56 min

4. #206 Gary Ballina / Karen Ruppert, 59 min

5. #212 Kurt Buck, 61 min

6. #251 Jeffrey Donnelly, 61 min

7. #231 Scott Miller, 62 min

8. #202 Brian Chambers, 63 min

9. #241 Andy Miller, 63 min

10. #244 William Wood team, 64 min

11. #234 Sam Jacoby, 64 min

12. #214 Kevin McCarty team, 65 min

13. #247 Michael Anderson, 67 min

14. #236 Katie Jury, 68 min

15. #209 Nina Cassino team, 68 min

16. #223 Lindsay Gerner team, 69 min

17. #221 Lindsay Gerner team, 69 min

18. #224 Mark Southam, 69 min

19. #207 Nina Cassino team, 70 min

20. #217 Matthew Houseknecht team, 71 min

21. #219 Paul Hoffer, 71 min

22. #218 Caroline Hoffer, 72 min

23. #237 Elizabeth Soukup, 72 min

24. #207 Kim Herbft, 72 min

25. #210 Zachary Paul, 73 min

26. #213 Kevin McCarty team, 73 min

27. #235 Christian Zuna, 73 min

28. #211 Thomas Paul, 73 min

29. #225 Eric Urani, 74 min

30. #232 Rod Kilhefner, 75 min

31. #254 John Musser team, 75 min

32. #253 John Musser team, 75 min

33. #250 Rick Cooper team, 76 min

34. #243 Dawn and Kim Jeter, 77 min

35. #208 Debra Clemons, 77 min

36. #215 Abby Reed, 77 min

37. #230 Faye Hawn, 78 min

38. #240 F. Vance McConkey team, 80 min

39. #249 Christina Bupp team, 81 min

40. #220 Krista Cox, 81 min

41. #203 Erin Blackwell, 81 min

42. #204 Karen Umlauf team, 82 min

43. #205 Karen Umlauf team, 82 min

44. #239 F. Vance McConkey team, 82 min

45. #227 Cherie Sidotie team, 93 min

46. #226 Cherie Sidotie team, 93 min

47. #248 Christina Bupp team, 94 min

48. #238 Albert Storm, 96 min

Again, thank you very much for supporting us in our efforts to preserve the Mighty Susquehanna. We hope to see all of you again next year!

Jul 29

Coalition Sues NY State for Putting Industry Before Clean Water

We’ve joined a coalition of environmental groups in filing a lawsuit against the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) for its deregulation of industrial dairy farms with 200–299 cows. DEC’s rulemaking has rolled back clean water protection standards to allow medium size dairy CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) to operate without a permit, in clear violation of both federal and state law, with the likely result that untreated cow manure will run off into and contaminate nearby waters. Read the press release here.

Your Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper, Michael R. Helfrich, had this to say on filing the lawsuit:

“The lower Susquehanna River is thick with algae, mostly from agricultural pollution. We have been working diligently to improve Pennsylvania’s implementation of pollution reductions to heal the Susquehanna River and Chesapeake Bay. We don’t need New York to reduce their standards on controlling their agricultural pollution.”

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.”

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