Fly-Fishing: Study shows sediment in streams from fracking causes problems

From the fly-fishing perspective, the nightmare impact of fracking on trout streams has always been

From the fly-fishing perspective, the nightmare impact of fracking on trout streams has always been the specter of toxic fracking fluid spilled (or dumped) into pristine waterways, sending wild trout belly-up for miles downstream.

Fortunately, that hasn’t happened in Pennsylvania, where fracking has been going on for several years. That doesn’t mean it never will. It also doesn’t mean fracking has had no impact on Pennsylvania streams.

A new study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, found that fracking has caused Keystone State rivers and streams to be muddier than normal, due to run-off from the construction involved.

The study, by an organization called Resources for the Future, computed that 18 wells in a watershed would increase silt in streams by 5 percent — not disastrous, but not good, either.

And it’s easy to imagine far worse mud pollution any time you have bulldozers grinding through the woods.

“While much of the public concern and controversy around shale gas development has focused on its impacts on groundwater, our findings indicate that there are risks to rivers and streams,” said the lead author of the study, Sheila M. Olm­stead.

Trout Unlimited has about 100 volunteer stream monitors in Pennsylvania, checking 163 streams for traces of chemical pollution from fracking. So far, so good when it comes to fracking fluid — but “the most significant impact our members are seeing on the ground is erosion and sediment­ation resulting from drilling-related activities, such as construction of well pads, new roads and pipelines,” said Katy Dunlap, Trout Unlimited’s eastern water project director.

“This is of particular concern to TU because science has demonstrated at least 15 different direct negative effects from sedimentation on trout and salmon, ranging from stress, altered behavior, reductions in growth and direct mortality,” she said.

But get this: Not only is the fracking industry exempt from reporting what it pumps into the ground to break up, shake and release natural gas, but it’s also exempt from run-off rules in the federal Clean Water Act.

You read that right: Frackers are exempt from federal storm water run-off rules.

A week ago today, Rep. Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania introduced a bill that would reverse that exemption. He’s not in the majority party so it probably won’t pass, but it should.

But as Dunlap notes, state governments can and should — must — regulate this kind of activity. You don’t get to foul a trout stream with mud, whether you’re building a house, a highway, a supermarket or a natural gas well.

This is something New York should keep in mind if and when it gives fracking the green light.


Rods, reels, lines, flies, fly-tying materials, books, videos, clothes, art and more will be for sale at easy-on-the-wallet prices at the Clearwater Chapter of Trout Unlimited flea market Saturday. It’s at the same time as every year — 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. — but this year, it’s at a new location: the Albany Ram­ada Plaza Hotel, 3 Watervliet Ave. Ext., Albany. Admission is $3; those 16 and younger and servicemen and women in uniform will be admitted free. The chapter’s website is

Morgan Lyle’s commentary appears regularly in The Daily Gazette. Reach him at [email protected]

Categories: Sports

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