Susquehanna River Symposium speaker stresses partnerships, funding needs

Nov. 6—LEWISBURG — The 16th Annual River Symposium began Friday night with a message about how conservation succeeds through partnerships.

Joel Dunn, president and CEO of the Chesapeake Conservancy, addressed a room of an estimated 100 environmental scientists and educators inside the Elaine Langone Center at Bucknell University.

Dunn spoke of efforts to improve creeks and streams along the Susquehanna River and the downstream impact on the Chesapeake Bay. Partnerships, Dunn said, are necessary and conservancy fails without them. It takes scientists and policymakers, land owners and advocates, individuals and communities.

Environmental challenges are growing more complex, Dunn said, and coordinated action is necessary to maintain the land we've all assumed stewardship of.

"We know it's a now-or-never moment," Dunn said. "We need to act now or forever lose a million species or our people who will be displaced by the harms of rising waters and climate change."

Dunn spoke of the importance of using granular data from geographic information systems along with artificial intelligence to pinpoint problem areas along the Susquehanna River to enact action plans to recover streams and the river. He told of how land owners can use confidential restoration reports to learn about the watershed and wildlife around their property and potential restoration opportunities to pursue.

The Chesapeake Conservancy teamed with the Wolf administration to restore the health of 30 agriculturally impaired streams in Pennsylvania by 2030. It could result in healthier streams and healthier creatures living in and along the water, better soil and safer crossings. It's going to take funding resources, Dunn said.

Dunn advocated for the attendees to sign letters encouraging Gov. Tom Wolf to allocate money from the American Recovery Act to fund the effort.

"We have the data, we have the streams, parcels, individual practices on those parcels, we have the partnerships," Dunn said. "What we need is implementation money. I think the Susquehanna River deserves it."

President John Bravman gave opening remarks prior to Dunn's presentation. Bravman spoke to a personal experience he had visiting the Hoover Dam in Nevada years ago. He clicked through photos in a slide presentation as he told of how impressive the dam structure was in person, never mind the potential debates on its environmental impact.

What was obvious, he showed through his photos, was how the rings along the shores of Lake Mead marked how much water had been lost over the years. As he approached his closing comments, he brought up a recent photo from online that showed a dramatic loss of water since Bravman's own visit years back.

The Smithsonian Magazine reported in June that the lake is just 200 feet above "dead pool," the point where water can't pass through the dam.

"Having stood there," Bravman said of Hoover Dam, "it's really quite shocking."

He then clicked to a photo of the Susquehanna River where the new Central Susquehanna Valley Thruway bridge is being constructed and spoke of the changing view-scape locally. He said he's proud that Bucknell has hosted the symposium since its inception.

"I don't see any reason why the need for this would ever go away," Bravman said.

The River Symposium is free and open to the public. Organizers ask that attendees simply register online at The event continues today with a talk at 9 a.m. about the impact of Tropical Storm Agnes nearly 50 years ago. Led by Presidential Fellow Bethany Fitch and Professor Andrew Stuhl, their research includes oral histories of 20 Pennsylvanians who lived through the storm and recovery.

Dave and Wendy Bray from the Seneca Nation in Western New York will speak at 10 a.m. about the process of sharing their heirloom Native white corn with conservancies across the United States.

Lara Fowler, senior lecturer at Penn State University, gives the keynote address at 12:15 p.m. addressing a pilot project between the Penn State Initiative for Resilient Communities and the Borough of Selinsgrove that's focused on flooding and resilience.

All of the talks are at the Elaine Langone Center. There are also links to watch online. For more, visit