Moving Ahead

Two milestones occurred during the first week of June 2000. On June 1, the York Haven Power Company, a GPU company, hosted the dedication of the new serpentine vertical-slot fish ladder at York Haven Dam, and on June 2, the Fish & Boat Commission moved to its new headquarters at 1601 Elmerton Avenue, Harrisburg.

The dedication of the fish ladder at York Haven Dam means that all four hydroelectric dams on the lower Susquehanna River now have fully functional fish passage facilities. The utilities that operate these dams have expended about $70 million in a joint venture to provide fish passage through Conowingo Dam, Holtwood Dam, Safe Harbor Dam and, now, York Haven Dam. The Fish & Boat Commission applauds these public-spirited utilities, which joined the resource agencies in a partnership to restore historic migratory fish runs to the Susquehanna.

I believe all Pennsylvania anglers and boaters should take pride in what has been accomplished so far in restoring American shad to the Susquehanna River Basin. The runs of American shad in the Susquehanna River this spring have broken all records. More than 160,000 American shad have passed Conowingo Dam and more than 3,000 have used the new fish ladder at York Haven.

Efforts to restore migratory fish runs to the Susquehanna River Basin have spanned more than a century. In 1866, the Fish Commission was established as a state agency to address diminishing fish populations on the Commonwealth's waters and restore migratory fish runs on Pennsylvania's rivers and streams. From the research of the 1950s to the historic agreements between resource agencies and the utilities in the 1980s and 1990s, the staff of the Fish & Boat Commission have forged a successful partnership with other agencies, the utilities and Pennsylvania sportsmen. I'm proud of the dedicated service of so many individuals who have devoted countless hours to this effort.

The extraordinary leadership of one of my predecessors, Ralph W. Abele, was a key to the success of the shad restoration efforts. As executive director of the Fish Commission in the 1970s and 1980s, Ralph developed the "Resource First" philosophy that guides us today. He established the VanDyke Shad Rearing Station, and he led efforts to have conditions inserted in the operating licenses for the hydroelectric dams to require installation of functional fish passage facilities. Ralph's predecessor as the Commission's executive director, Robert Bielo, continued a vital leadership role in migratory fish restoration as executive director of the Susquehanna River Basin Commission. Richard St. Pierre of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service coordinated the efforts of the agencies and the utilities through the Susquehanna Anadromous Fish Restoration Committee, and he was the key player in seeing these projects through from concept to completion.

At the ceremonies dedicating the York Haven fish ladder, John Oliver, Secretary of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, once again demonstrated our Commonwealth's strong interagency partnership to restore migratory fish runs all the way from the Chesapeake Bay to Binghamton, New York. Secretary Oliver announced that the inflatable dam at Shikellamy State Park, near Sunbury, will be operated in a way that maximizes upstream passage of American shad in the future. This means that the bags that are inflated to form the dam may have to remain down later in the season, and Secretary Oliver pledged DCNR's support of this effort. The Fish & Boat Commission applauds Secretary Oliver's statement and we will work with him on a permanent solution to fish passage at the inflatable dam.

As American shad move up the Susquehanna River in record numbers in spring 2000, the Fish & Boat Commission is moving ahead in another way to better serve our customers, the anglers and boaters of Pennsylvania. On June 2, our Harrisburg offices moved from our rented quarters on Walnut Street to our new office building at 1601 Elmerton Avenue. For more than 134 years, the Commission's Harrisburg offices have been housed in borrowed or rented quarters. Now we have a home that Pennsylvania anglers and boaters can call their own.

The new headquarters project took many years of hard work and dedicated efforts. The new headquarters is a tribute to the foresight of our commissioners. They realized that our agency's ability to serve Pennsylvania anglers and boaters in a new century would be enhanced by a functional office and warehouse building with adequate meeting space. The members of the General Assembly, who twice voted to approve this new building, and the administration of Governor Tom Ridge, who gave us the go-ahead to make this project a reality, also deserve great appreciation.

Our new headquarters is a direct result of the hard work of a great many Fish & Boat Commission employees over many months and even years. During the move, staff devoted countless hours of their personal time to ensuring a smooth transition.

Our new headquarters represents an affirmation of the importance of fishing and boating programs. It is a visible statement of the Commonwealth's faith in the future of our efforts to provide fishing and boating opportunities through the protection and management of aquatic resources. On July 22, 2000, the Commission will host an open house at our new headquarters. We will cut the ribbon and dedicate our new facility to the future of Pennsylvania's precious aquatic resources. We're moving ahead.

Peter A. Colangelo
Executive Director
Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission

July/August 2000 Angler & Boater

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