Clean Chesapeake Coalition Challenges Conowingo Relicensing - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Clean Chesapeake Coalition Challenges Conowingo Relicensing

CAMBRIDGE, Md. - On September first, the Exelon Corporation's license to operate the Conowingo Dam expires, and they are looking to sign a new 46 year agreement.  But the Clean Chesapeake Coalition wants them to do some cleanup behind the dam first.

The dam has been the gatekeeper between runoff coming down the Susquehanna River from Pennsylvania and New York for generations.  But all that sediment collecting has had it's toll according to Tom Bradshaw, who's with the Clean Chesapeake Coalition.

"When the dam was built about 85 years ago, the Conowingo Pond was about 120 feet deep.  And it was a gift to the bay because it was a huge stormwater pond.  Now today, here we are all these years later, we've gone from 120 feet in depth to 14 feet in depth.  So it has lost it's trapping capacity." says Bradshaw.

So the coalition is asking the federal energy regulatory committee to include dredging the pond as part of a temporary license, instead of the 46 year agreement.  Scott Todd, president of the Dorchester Seafood Harvesters Association, agrees dredging needs to happen, but on Pennsylvania's dime.

"Dredge this stuff up and carry it back to Pennsylvania where it came from.  I don't want to start any fires here, but if you have a tree in your yard and if it falls into your neighbor's yard during a storm, who's responsible for cutting it up?  you are." said Todd.

The Maryland Department of the Environment says dredging is part of the complex solution of cleaning the bay, but it is one of many options they are looking at to lessen the amount of sediment and nutrients flowing from the susquehanna.  The current draft for relicensing does include some mention of dredging, but as of now, it is only for three marinas in the Conowingo area.  Exelon estimates in that draft that dredging the entire pond could cost 50 million dollars to keep up annually.

For a link to the federal energy regulatory committee's relicensing draft, you can click here.
Public comment on this draft is open through September 29th.

A full statement from the MDE is as follows:

"The Maryland Department of the Environment, in partnership with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is actively engaged in work to address concerns about the impact to the Chesapeake Bay of the Susquehanna River as it flows over the Conowingo Dam. This is being done through the Lower Susquehanna River Watershed Assessment, and draft findings and recommendations are expected to be made available for public comment later this year. The Assessment has considered dredging as an option, but no final finding has been reached on that issue.

When talking about the Susquehanna River, the Conowingo Dam and the Chesapeake Bay, it is important to keep several points in mind. While the river does contribute pollution to the Bay, Pennsylvania and New York are working to reduce the pollution that enters the river in the first place as required under the federal program that establishes pollution limits to the Bay. At the same time, more than half of pollution entering the Bay and its tributaries originates in local streams and rivers other than the Susquehanna. Maryland has developed a science-based blueprint that outlines pollution reduction strategies needed to restore the Bay and our rivers and streams.

Addressing the sediment behind the Conowingo Dam is part of the complex solution needed to restore the Bay, but Maryland will not meet its restoration goals without the support of local jurisdictions in controlling their pollution to local waters as well."

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