Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
Deputy Director Tours Fish Passage Facilities of the Susquehanna River
Northeast Region, April 30, 2012
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East Lift at Conowingo Dam provides fish passage on the Susquehanna River
East Lift at Conowingo Dam provides fish passage on the Susquehanna River - Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of Robert Judge, Exelon Coporation

The Chesapeake Bay Field Office biologist David Sutherland organized a tour of fish passage facilities for U.S Fish and Wildlife Service’s Deputy Director Rowan Gould and Frankie Green National Hydro-power Coordinator at the first two dams spanning the Susquehanna River: Conowingo Hydropower Dam in Maryland and Holtwood Hydropower Dam in Pennsylvania. The Conowingo Dam is owned by the Exelon Corporation and Holtwood Dam by PPL Corporation (formerly Pennsyvannia Power and Light).


The group also included other U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff from the Chesapeake Bay Field office, Allegheny Fish Hatchery, Pennsylvania Field Office, Lamar Fisheries Technology Center, Maryland Fisheries Resources Office. Frank Dawson, Assistant Secretary for Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), was also in attendance. Additional partners included representatives of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, and the National Park Service’s National Center for Recreation and Conservation, Chesapeake Bay Office and New England Regional Office.

The group first stopped at Conowingo Dam, getting an up close and first-hand look at the West Lift, which actually captures and holds fish for spawning in tanks, and for transport upstream. The East Lift provides complete fish passage over the dam and passes the majority of the fish. After lunch, the group travelled upstream to the Holtwood Dam to get an update on the Holtwood hydropower expansion, the pending land transfer and improvements to fish passage at three locations.

Providing fish passage is crucial to a variety of diadromous fish, including American eel, blueback herring, alewife, and American shad. American shad and gizzard shad were the only species observed that day and unfortunately, the gizzard shad out-numbered the American shad more than 50 to 1. Currently, USFWS Fisheries is responsible for the only American eel trap and transport upstream of the Conowingo Dam.

Exelon’s Conowingo dam is currently in relicensing. The Service and its partners are working with Exelon to ensure that fish passage is improved for all migratory species and that the facility is maintained to effectively provide pass fish during the most vital time for fish migration. In summary, we anticipate providing recommendations that include effective passage for all trust fish species, increased upstream passage capacity, and standardized maintenance and operation protocols.

For more information contact:
David Sutherland

Contact Info: Kathryn Reshetiloff, 410-573-4582, kathryn_reshetiloff@fws.gov
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