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Meeting Alert: Find Out How Removing the Woodland Dam Will Boost Wildlife in the Cobbs

The Woodland Dam is currently preventing many species of fish from reaching the upper parts of Cobbs Creek. Philadelphia Water and the Army Corps are planning to remove it. Credit: Philadelphia Water.
The Woodland Dam is currently preventing many species of fish from reaching the upper parts of Cobbs Creek. Philadelphia Water and the Army Corps are planning to remove it. Credit: Philadelphia Water.

Residents are invited to join staff from Philadelphia Water and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at the Cobbs Creek Environmental Education Center tomorrow at 6 p.m. to learn about an exciting new project that will open up miles of the Cobbs to fish like the blueback herring, a historically important migratory species whose habitat has been limited by dams across the region.

The focus of the meeting will be the partial removal of the Woodland Dam, the first dam to block fish travelling up Darby-Cobbs Creek from the Delaware River. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Philadelphia District and Philadelphia Water will have representatives on hand to answer any questions about the plan. (For those who cannot make it, the public is invited to comment on the proposal by May 9, 2016.)

Urban Wildlife Podcast Explores Cool Philadelphia Water Job

Joe Perillo and Lance Butler of Philadelphia Water with a monster striped bass. Credit: Philadelphia Water.
Joe Perillo and Lance Butler of Philadelphia Water with a monster striped bass. Credit: Philadelphia Water.

Earlier this summer the locally-produced Urban Wildlife Podcast sat down with our very own Joe Perillo to talk about what creatures lurk in Philly's waters. And if anyone knows, it's Joe.

After all, it's his job: Perillo is an aquatic biologist in Philadelphia Water's Bureau of Laboratory Services division who, along with fellow aquatic biologist Lance Butler, helped get our bio-monitoring program off the ground starting in 2001.

Aquatic bio-monitoring, the collection and study of things living in our watersheds, is a tool Philadelphia Water deploys to learn more about the health of our urban waterways.

Here's how Perillo described the value of bio-monitoring to Urban Wildlife, which is produced by reptile and amphibian enthusiast Billy Brown and West Philly birder and naturalist Tony Croasdale, who has helped tons of kids learn about nature in Cobbs Creek through his Wild West Philly docent program (supported by Philadelphia Water):

When you take a water sample, you're basically taking a snapshot. That's one second of what that water body is like. When you start looking at aquatic life like [algae] you're assimilating days' worth of information. When you move up to higher forms of life, such as invertebrates, their life cycle is months, so now you're taking in all that environmental information. When you go to fish, you're talking about years. So instead of just grabbing that one snapshot of that one second of what the water is like, by looking at the aquatic life, you're getting longer term pictures of the health of the rivers and, specifically, what's impacting the health: what's keeping it from being healthier, or being impaired or polluted. Is it stormwater? Is it sewer overflows? Is it habitat degradation, sedimentation?

We thought Perillo's Urban Wildlife chat was so good (topics such as drunken Philly alligators are covered), we decided to ask him a few questions of our own to learn a bit more about his bio-monitoring work, which involves everything from briefly stunning fish en masse with a cattle prod-like tool to collecting microscopic plant life.

Philly Watersheds: It seems like the public only sees and hears about what you guys are doing when you happen to come across a 40-inch striper and your picture ends up on, but I assume your day-to-day work is a bit different than just electroshocking trophy bass. How much of the time are you out there collecting these living samples, and how much of the time are you studying the information you get from the samples?

Perillo: My work is strongly tied with the different seasons of the year and varying life cycles of diverse aquatic organisms. Some of the creatures we study (like shad) are only present in this region for a couple weeks in the entire year. I would say, in a general sense, that late winter through the spring and into early summer is the busiest time of year; I’m almost always in the field and hardly in the lab during this time period. My work moves indoors when ice starts to form on our waterways, so December, January, and February we are in the lab looking into microscopes, analyzing data, and writing reports.

PW: Does Philadelphia Water have labs where scientists study fish and other biological samples, or do you mainly send the samples out to another lab and then study the results when they come back?

Perillo: We work closely with state and federal scientiststo collect, analyze, and interpret results.

PW: What does Philadelphia Water do with the information it collects from aquatic life samples?

Perillo: Most information is related to State and Federal Permit Compliance requirements and ends up in comprehensive reports to the major environmental regulators. I have published some of our data in peer-reviewed scientific journals and presented research at international scientific conferences.

PW: In the years that you've been doing bio-monitoring in Philadelphia, have you observed any trends?

Perillo: A surprising trend for most folks is that in many instances water quality and biotic integrity is better in the city portion of a watershed than out in the suburbs.

PW: And, of course, what's the coolest aquatic life you've ever found in Philadelphia?

Perillo: Several years ago, was the first time in almost 200 years that an adult American Shad was found above Valley Forge in the Schuylkill River. At one time this species was the king of the river, shaping much of the cultural and economic history; but it was nearly wiped out during the Industrial Revolution due to severe pollution, over-harvesting, and construction of dams/loss of habitat.

To learn more about Perillo's work out on Philadelphia's rivers and hear some great stories about the natural world at your doorstep, listen to the full Urban Wildlife Podcast episode here (Joe comes in around the 9 minute mark). You can also read about our fish monitoring program (the source of those great striped bass pics) here.

Fish Fest: Inspiring Life-Long Watershed Stewards

Watch our video to learn more about the Philly Fun Fishing Fest.

There’s something about fishing—the wonder, perhaps, that you inevitably experience when you cast your line into the water and hope that something will appear, alive and fighting, on the other end—that makes it an especially potent way of getting people hooked on "watershed stewardship."

Being a watershed steward is a fancy way of saying you care about the rivers, streams, creeks, wetlands, brooks and bays around us; Philadelphia alone has seven watersheds, all of them feeding into the much larger Delaware River watershed, stretching from the cold, wild trout-filled streams of the Catskill Mountains in New York all the way down to the salty Delaware Bay, where blue crab and flounder swim.

We want everyone in the Philadelphia region to think of themselves as watershed stewards because people who care about the source of their drinking water make our job—protecting and treating that water—that much easier. Whether it’s voting for elected officials who care about water quality or just picking up pet waste to keep it from washing into rivers and streams, we can count on watershed stewards to be on our side when it comes to making sure the Delaware watershed is in tip-top shape.

That’s the sentiment behind the Philly Fun Fishing Fest (Fish Fest for short), a Schuylkill River tradition now in its 11th year. It’s a day when anyone, old or young, fishing license or not, can come down to the banks of this amazing river and, we hope, make that special connection that leads to a life of watershed stewardship.

"Our source water protection efforts, from working with partners far upstream to reducing the amount of stormwater entering waterways from city streets, are all guided by our ‘One Water’ approach, which recognizes that everything we do comes back to the goal of having healthy rivers," says Tiffany Ledesma, a member of Philadelphia Water’s public engagement team. "Fish Fest is a great, fun way for people of all ages to experience what a healthy Schuylkill River has to offer in a hands-on way, and we want residents to have a direct stake in our efforts to take water quality to the next level."

This year’s Fish Fest, a totally free catch-and-release only event, will take place Saturday, September 12, from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. (rain date: Oct. 3). Participants must register and fill out a quick form, which you can find by clicking here. The deadline for signups is Thursday, September 10. We’ll even have fishing poles available for loan and worms to use as bait. Experts will also be on hand to teach you how to cast and identify the fish species caught.
Prizes for a variety of categories, including the biggest (AND smallest!) fish, will be awarded during an 11:30 a.m. ceremony. To make the day even more fun, we’ll be holding the second annual Crazy Hat contest, open to all. Get creative with your head gear for the chance to reel in a prize!

What to Expect
Anglers during last year’s fest recorded nearly four dozen catches, and species identified included channel catfish, striped bass, bluegill, American eel, American shad, white perch, pumpkinseed sunfish, and red-breast sunfish.

Philly Fun Fishing Fest 2014: See Photos from Last Year, Including Fish Measuring and Crazy Hats

REMEMBER: Registration and Release of Liability are required to fish at the Fishing Fest. The registration must be completed ahead of time and the release form must be brought on the day of the event in order to participate. Register here and download the Release of Liability here. Questions? Call : 215-685-6300 or email us at

Philadelphia Water’s partners for this event include Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, the Pa. Fish and Boat Commission, Schuylkill Banks, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and Plano Tackle.

Want to Spread the Word? Download a Fish Fest Flyer by Clicking the Image Below:

Fish Fest Official Flyer 

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