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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Susquehanna River: Something's Amiss

I studied the Susquehanna River while in college. I did two independent research projects on the geology & geomorphology of northeastern Pennsylvania, and based upon the strength of one of those projects, I was invited to lecture on the topic at several groups and colleges in the late '70s. I even remember watching a bunch of PhD's vigorously debate my findings regarding the statistical anomalies in the deformation of the eastern wall of the Wyoming Valley due to the advancing glaciers during the last Ice Age. In the end...I received an award for that senior research project as well.

Fast forward a few decades: I've paddled over 2,000 miles on the Susquehanna River in my kayaks, and in 2008 received national recognition for my efforts to protect her from the top river conservation group in our country:  American Rivers. 

Put another way, when it comes to the Susquehanna and the geology of northeastern PA, I've forgotten more than most of the Johnny-come-lately "experts" out there profess to know.

However, when it comes to observing the great outdoors, and noticing subtle but nonetheless definite shifts in nature, I humbly defer to a man who, in my opinion, is one of the greatest outdoorsmen alive today. His name is Dan Natt, he lives in  Bradford County, and he is in his 4th decade of living right beside the Susquehanna River. Dan's property ends where the Susquehanna River begins. Unless you're a fish...you can't get much closer.

And if you want to talk turkey with Dan...

...be prepared to shut up and listen. The man has few equals on this planet.

In my view, Dan Natt is the quintessential mountain man.

Recently, Dan mentioned that he had never seen the Susquehanna drop as rapidly as it did over the last few weeks on the north branch. Ever. And having seen ~12,000+ sunsets over the Susquehanna at that exact same spot, I trust his judgement on this specific matter - without question.

As covered in many prior posts, I have a huge challenge with the number of water withdrawals that the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) has and continues to approve from the Susquehanna watershed. In many cases, the SRBC has approved withdrawals from streams, such as Tuscarora Creek, that have no historical streamflow data available to ensure that the approved withdrawals, in this case 500,000 gallons per day from a stream that I can stride across, will not have a negative impact on the stream's ecosystem. Instead, the SRBC uses data from another stream, in this case, one 20+ miles downriver, as a basis for setting the minimum streamflow for cessation of withdrawals.

The SRBC's  "scientific" approach is - at best - flawed. 

Additionally, surface withdrawals are not the only source of water the SRBC has approved for "well completion" activity. They have also approved - and continue to approve - the sale of water that is withdrawn by municipalities and other sources from underground aquifers.

Ponder this graphic for a moment or two. 

With me so far? Good.

Now, if the natural gas folks are withdrawing millions of gallons of water daily from our surface waters and from our underground aquifers as well - thereby unnaturally depleting the volume of water in both - what do you think the end result will be if they've taken out too much?

I'm a "cause and effect" guy, and time and time again throughout my 56+ years on this planet, I've seen - especially in nature - that the connection between the cause of an event and the resultant effect can eventually - albeit circuitously at times - be discovered through careful and deliberate investigative backtracking and analysis of the facts.

Once again, THE FACTS!

Fact is, Dan Natt has lived within a hundred feet or so of the Susquehanna River for 33+ years. He sees it every day of his life...several times per day. And Dan Natt says there's something amiss with the abnormal fluctuations of water levels in the Susquehanna. Conversely, the $RBC and the natural ga$ industry says they know what they're doing, and that everything is fine.

Who do you believe?

   Keep watching & thinking, Dan.

Watching & thinking...

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