Decision on Mussel Protection Delayed

To avoid a showdown with dredgers, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has once again delayed a controversial decision over protecting rare mussels in the Allegheny River. The Allegheny Front's Deborah Weisberg has the story.

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OPEN: To avoid a showdown with dredgers, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has once again delayed a controversial decision over protecting rare mussels in the Allegheny River. Here's The Allegheny Front's Deborah Weisberg with the story.

Weisberg: The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has decided to wait until June before determining whether two species of mussels, the salamander and rayed bean, should be protected as threatened or endangered. It is the second time this year the fish commission has backed down to dredgers and state lawmakers who say protecting the mussels would hurt jobs in an already weak economy. At its recent board meeting, the commission announced it will work with dredgers over the next 60 days to try to reach a compromise that would satisfy both environmentalists and big business. Only one of the 10 commissioners, Bob Bachman voted to give the mussels protected status. Before the vote was taken, he explained why.

Bachman: We have to take into consideration first and foremost - what are the threats to our aquatic organisms, for PA Fish and Boat Commission is mandated to be the stewards for the people of the state and this is an example of it.

Weisberg: Glacial Sand and Gravel Co. owner Mark Snyder said he's eager to work with the commission and may propose options like moving the mussels to parts of the river where his company doesn't dredge. The dredgers have agreed to a 60-day moratorium where the mussels exist. The commission did vote to give protected status to three other species, the rabbitsfoot, sheepnose and snuffbox. Those exist in tributaries to the Allegheny but not in the main stem where dredging is performed.

For the Allegheny Front, I'm Deborah Weisberg.