This is your chance to be heard.
This is your chance to make a difference.
And, most importantly, this is our chance to ensure a precious waterway does not die a slow, painful death.
There's a debate brewing among the state's environmental keepers. The biologists at the Fish and Boat Commission want the Susquehanna River added to the federal list of impaired and threatened waters.
But the folks at the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) have denied the idea. They say we need to know what's wrong with the river before we can try to fix it.
Each year, the DEP prepares a draft list of the state's waterways to be included on the federal impaired list. Despite the appeal from the state's waterways protectors, the Susquehanna River was not on the list this year.
This is where you come in. The draft is open for public comment through May 22. That means if the movement to add the Susquehanna to the list gets enough support from the public to sway the DEP's decision, the fishery we were once so proud of may begin its long journey back to health.
If the Commission gets the listing it wants, it would kick off a two-year deadline to create a plan to reduce the amount of pollution entering the river. It would introduce the idea of a "total maximum daily load," a clean-up strategy that has proven very effective in other waterways that feed the Chesapeake Bay.
The reason the DEP claims it refused the Commission's listing request is because nobody knows exactly what is hurting the Susquehanna. We know something is wrong. Smallmouth bass have odd levels of vitellogenin in their blood. In many instances, it has led to male fish showing signs of egg production.
The symptoms are there. But we don't know how they got there. And unless regulators can put a finger on the cause, the DEP claims it will be difficult to control the source of the problem.
There is logic in that idea. After all, misguided regulations are likely to do nothing more than waste money and erode support for future action.
But it's important to remember putting the Susquehanna on the impaired list does not force any agency's hand. It merely starts the clock. By giving regulators two years to create a plan, it ensures the health of the river will remain at the top of the priority list.
In other words, biologists and regulators may not find a solution to this mess anytime soon. But a listing would accelerate the efforts to find one.
That's why your voice needs to be heard. If you want the Susquehanna added to the list of impaired waterways, make sure the DEP knows your thoughts. And even if you don't want things to change, be heard. All opinions matter.
I just wish the fish could share their thoughts. They would tell a sad tale.
Andy Snyder writes about the outdoors for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at sports@york dispatch.com.