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One Court Rejects Exelon’s Challenge To Maryland’s Conowingo Dam Cleanup Requirements

The Baltimore Sun Thursday reported a Baltimore Circuit Court Judge rejected a lawsuit filed by Conowingo Dam owner Exelon challenging the cleanup conditions Maryland imposed on the state Section 401 Water Quality Permit allowing the Dam to operate.

The challenge was rejected on procedural grounds with the Judge saying Exelon could not fight the permit conditions in court until it had exhausted administrative appeals under Maryland law.

Exelon’s appeal of the same Conowingo Dam permit conditions is pending with the Maryland Department of the Environment and in a companion lawsuit in federal court.

Exelon officials said the permit condition set “a precedent of assigning sole responsibility for pollution to the Conowingo Dam.”  Conowingo Dam does not create the pollutants, they are in the Susquehanna River when it gets to the Dam, Excelon said.

Maryland officials have demanded Exelon find a way to solve that problem. They imposed new water quality requirements in a permit that the company needs to secure a renewed federal license to operate the Conowingo.

The fact Conowingo Dam is no longer effective at holding back sediments washed into the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania and New York is not news.  Concerns about the issue go back decades.

States in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, including Pennsylvania, have been working together to develop a joint strategy for dealing with the sediment load the Conowingo Dam not longer traps.

The Senate Environmental Resources and Energy and Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committees held a joint fact-finding hearing on the issue in April 2016 that laid out the entire issue.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a study of sediment flow impacts to the Chesapeake Bay from Conowingo Dam also in 2016.

A 2010 study done for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency documented the sediment trapping capacity of the Susquehanna River dams and their effect on the Chesapeake Bay.

The Pennsylvania members of the Chesapeake Bay Commission provided a grant to the Susquehanna River Basin Commission in 1999 to organize a multi-agency Sediment Task Force to review the loss of capacity on the Susquehanna River dams to trap sediment.

Studies at that time by SRBC and the U.S. Geological Survey said Conowingo would reach its sediment capacity trapping limits in 20 to 30 years.  They were about on target with 20 years because it’s full now.

For information on Pennsylvania’s efforts to meet its Chesapeake Bay cleanup obligations, visit the PA Chesapeake Bay Watershed Planning Steering Committee webpage.


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Related Stories This Week:

Next Meeting Of PA Chesapeake Bay Steering Committee Moved To Nov. 20

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[Posted: Oct. 12, 2018


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