Morning mist viewed from the shore of the Susquehanna River.
The Susquehanna, the 16th largest river in the United States, supplies drinking water to hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians along its reach. It offers recreational opportunities and industrial water supplies. It boasts a well-known smallmouth bass fishery, and is popular with boaters and birders. Unseen to most visitors, millions of freshwater mussels, some of them seriously threatened, line the river bottom.
River of Life
The health of the Susquehanna River also affects the biology downstream in the Chesapeake Bay, the nation’s largest estuary, which relies on freshwater from the river to maintain its ecological equilibrium. Freshwater is a vital part of what makes the Chesapeake Bay tremendously productive, and half that freshwater comes from the Susquehanna.
Unfortunately, the Susquehanna faces a variety of serious and growing threats, as human demands for water outstrip nature’s ability to provide. Poorly-planned development, agriculture, and oil and gas drilling threaten both water quantity and quality. These demands have the potential to threaten the natural rhythms of flood and drought that are critically important to freshwater life.
The Nature Conservancy stands hip deep with our partners in conserving the Susquehanna River and its tributaries, using the best available science to find a reasonable balance between the needs of people and nature. The Conservancy is framing an approach to conserving the Susquehanna aimed at supporting existing efforts, and tackling the key threats that challenge the entire watershed.
Specifically, the Conservancy has taken action on a number of fronts to protect and restore water quality and natural water flow patterns. This includes working to make sure that fish passage and other wildlife issues are considered during the federal re-licensing of the Conowingo Dam.
We’re also working with the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to identify the amounts and timing of flow needed to sustain aquatic species and habitats throughout the Susquehanna basin, and to maintain the health of the Chesapeake Bay. And the chapter also hired an agriculture program manager to build partnerships with an industry having a direct impact on the river and greater Chesapeake Bay watershed.