MD Governor Announces Pilot Project To Dredge Behind Conowingo Dam To Help Chesapeake Bay
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan Tuesday announced plans for a pilot project to dredge about 25,000 cubic yards of the estimated 31 million cubic yards of sediment trapped behind the Conowingo Dam to help determine whether a larger scale project would be helpful to the Chesapeake Bay.
Reports over the past few years found the Conowingo Dam, located just south of the Pennsylvania-Maryland border, is no longer trapping sediment washing down the Susquehanna River heading for the Chesapeake Bay.
The Chesapeake Bay Journal reported the demonstration project will be funded by Maryland, but Hogan made it clear that if it led to more dredging, he expected financial help and cooperation from Exelon Corp. the dam’s owner, the federal government and the states upriver.
Maryland has held up renewal of Exelon’s federal license to operate the Conowingo hydroelectric facility, citing concerns about the impacts on state water quality of the sediment buildup.
“This is not just Maryland’s problem,” Hogan said. And in response to a reporter’s question, Gov. Hogan said, “If it comes to that, we’ll file suit against the EPA and the upstream states.”
The announcement came at the end of the second Conowingo Dam Summit where local and state officials gathered to discuss potential solutions to the sediment issue. Click Here for more on the Summit.
Alison Prost, Maryland Executive Director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, issued this statement about the proposal, "While dredging could be a part of the solution, results of the Army Corps of Engineers led study indicated that the most cost effective approach to reducing pollution coming across the dam is to implement practices that will reduce pollution upstream.
"The dam is currently seeking a new license. Gov. Hogan should require Exelon, which owns and profits from the dam, to contribute a portion of its profits to help reduce pollution coming down the Susquehanna River," she added.
Chesapeake Conservancy President & CEO Joel Dunn issued this statement following the second Conowingo Summit--
“Chesapeake Conservancy appreciates Gov. Hogan’s leadership and resolve, particularly now as he serves as the newly elected Chair of the Chesapeake Executive Council of the Chesapeake Bay Program, to address the long-standing problem of sediment and nutrients entering the Susquehanna watershed. This is a priority issue for all of us working to restore the health of the Chesapeake Bay.
“The Chesapeake Conservancy appreciated the opportunity at today’s summit to advocate for upstream best management practices funded with public and private capital investments, and guided by the latest technology and data, to be a part of the long-term solution to the issues facing the Susquehanna and the Chesapeake. It is critical that upstream restoration works in concert with the Governor’s effort to reduce and beneficially reuse sediments that have built up behind the Conowingo dam.
“The sediment behind the dam is a major issue and should be addressed in the most creative way possible, but perhaps more important is a focus on reducing future pollution from coming down the river, otherwise our children will be dealing with this same issue.
“In addition, we believe that any mitigation strategy to address that pollution should embrace the use of private capital and the pay-for-success delivery by private companies that Maryland has pioneered through the enactment of Governor Hogan’s Clean Water Commerce Act and the Department of Transportation's recent precedent-setting request for proposals for full service stream restoration delivery.
“Precision conservation, technology, and targeted restoration hold great promise for both short-term and long-term solutions. From the upper reaches of the Susquehanna to the mouth of the Bay, communities depend on a healthy bay for water quality for fisheries, public health, wildlife, outdoor recreation and economic development. Addressing upstream restoration in the Susquehanna, combined with continued commitments in Maryland and Virginia, makes good conservation and economic sense."
In April of 2016 at a joint hearing on the Conowingo and Susquehanna Dams issue by the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy and Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committees, the U.S. Geological Survey told state officials the Conowingo was at capacity in its ability to trap sediment going down the Susquehanna River.
At the first meeting of the PA Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Planning Steering Committee in April, presenters noted there were several issues that will make the state’s job harder to meet Bay nutrient and sediment reduction goals, one was the fact Pennsylvania could no longer count on the Conowingo Dam to trap sediment.
For more information on Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts in Pennsylvania, visit DEP’s Chesapeake Bay Office webpage.
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[Posted: August 8, 2017]
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