Baltimore City Judge Dismisses Conowingo Dam Lawsuit - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Baltimore City Judge Dismisses Conowingo Dam Lawsuit

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DARLINGTON, Md. - Case dismissed! That's what a Baltimore City judge did to a lawsuit filed against Maryland's Department of the Environment Thursday afternoon. Exelon, the parent company of Conowingo Dam, sued back in May. The company says MDE imposed an "unfair burden" in the form of a permit in cleaning up the Conowingo Dam. Now, watermen and scientists are rejoicing but say they've won a battle, but not the war.

Month after month this Summer, chocolate waters plagued the Susquehanna River carrying tons of rainwater and debris flowing through the Conowingo Dam. Now, a 23-page court memo from Judge Pamela White of the Circuit Court of Baltimore City wrote Exelon had prematurely filed its complaint to the court.

Rob Newberry of the Delmarva Fisheries Association says the decision is a small step forward for watermen, who have fought month after month to keep Exelon accountable.

"It's very frustrating," Newberry said. "They open and close the doors. They're letting the bad water in, so they can keep the bad water out."

Newberry says the loads of freshwater entering the Chesapeake Bay may spell disaster for future oyster and crab harvests in Maryland.

Elle Bassett of the ShoreRivers organization in Easton says the state-issued permit to keep Exelon responsible for the pollution needs even more regulations. That's why she and other environmentalists say they're not done fighting.

"It's not quite a win for us, Bassett said. "We are anticipating that Exelon will appeal again, in which case we will intervene on behalf of the state."

Alan Girard of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Eastern Shore Office agrees and says White's decision to dismiss the case was justified. 

"The dam uh really has impacts on the nature, timing and delivery of nutrients and sediments and it's important that the administrative process determine how to manage those impacts is followed and pursued," Girard said.

In a statement, Exelon said it would continue to fight as well: "We will continue to contest the MDE 401 certification, which set a precedent of assigning sole responsibility of pollution to the Conowingo Dam."

White says the case was dismissed because Exelon did not complete a proper appeals process, including a public comment period. The company has also filed a similar lawsuit with the U.S. District Court.

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