As anglers on the Susquehanna river, and as citizens of Pennsylvania, we are concerned at EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt’s attempt to roll back the Clean Water Rule.
The rule was enacted after an extensive period of public comment, and over 400 stakeholder meetings were held. The rule restores historic coverage of small streams, it does not expand them, nor does it require every ditch that is dug undergo an environmental review.
It is a commonsense law that protects the drinking water of the 63 percent of Pennsylvanians who rely on drinking water sourced from the small streams that the rule was designed to protect. When small streams are protected, the benefits are seen in the larger bodies of water, like the Susquehanna and Juniata rivers, all the way to the Chesapeake Bay. Our members rely on these rivers for their angling recreation.
Anglers are a diverse group, and any blanket statement will be flawed, but recreational sportfishing is an economic driver here in Pennsylvania. A 2011 United States Fish and Wildlife report stated that 4.6 million Pennsylvanians participated in angling and spent $458 million on their sport.
From the wading angler to the river enthusiast in the newest jet boat, anglers spend money ... but spending goes down when fishing success goes down.
The reasons that the Susquehanna has suffered from a downturn in smallmouth bass populations are not fully understood, since there may be many factors at play. Recently, the outlook has gotten brighter, with better spawns and more age group diversity being seen.
But we know that all of this is moot if we don’t continue to protect the smaller tributaries of the river. We need to get this right, and continue to get it right, for the river to have any chance to return to the world class smallmouth bass fishery it once was.
During several lean years, when the fishing was adversely impacted, we noticed a drop in membership renewals, and in overall use at our club. Conversely, as the fish population improved, interest increased as evidenced by our membership.
The money spent on fishing recreation is not a given. If there are no fish to pursue, interest wanes and the economic benefits dry up. All of the above statements do not even address the economic impact quality fishing would have on out-of-state anglers. Making fishing more attractive would bring in outside dollars to the Pennsylvania economy.
So it seems to us, the board of the Overview Anglers Club, that the benefits of the Clean Water Rule are undeniable. Pennsylvanians’ drinking water is protected, and anglers of all varieties benefit from clean water. The state’s economy benefits from the money spent on fishing.
It seems to us there is no reason to weaken water protection. The Susquehanna needs our help, and keeping small tributaries running clean is no small part of keeping this great resource continuing to be a great resource.