Capital Gazette Article Discusses Conowingo Dam Bay Cleanup Issue

An October 29 Capital Gazette article highlights recent efforts by a local law firm, Funk & Bolton, to raise county interest in challenging county requirements under the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) unless potential issues with the Conowingo Dam are first addressed.  As highlighted in a recent United States Geologic Survey report, the Conowingo Dam reservoir has nearly reached its capacity to contain phosphorus and sediment and the Dam has released significant amounts of both into the Bay during severe storm events over the last several years.  (Hurricane/Tropical Storm Sandy will likely provide another test case).

Funk & Bolton allege that if the Dam issue is not addressed, a significant storm event would cause the Dam to release enough phosphorus and sediment into the Bay that would override local cleanup efforts.

Charles D. “Chip” MacLeod and Jefferson Blomquist of the Funk & Bolton firm were first hired by Dorchester County’s commissioners and are trying to sign up other counties.  …

Blomquist said county governments should make sure their money will be well-spent before undertaking pollution projects such as upgrading sewage plants and fixing stormwater control systems.

The Maryland Department of the Environment argues that the Dam is only one pollution source among many and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation notes that the Dam does not affect pollution going into many of Maryland’s rivers.

[Maryland Secretary of the Environment Robert Summers] said any issues with the dam are no excuse for backing out of Maryland’s commitments to clean up the bay and all the rivers and streams that flow into it. The dam is one of many sources of pollution to the bay.

MACo is studying the Conowingo Dam issue and has raised other concerns over Bay TMDL implementation.

Les Knapp, MACO’s top lawyer and lobbyist, said: “MACO is looking into the Conowingo Dam issue and recognizes that could have a significant impact on county efforts.”

MACO has its own concerns about the pollution diet and the bay computer models.

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