Debate Continues on Conowingo Dam’s Impact on Bay Cleanup

A November 2 Maryland article recaps the ongoing debate over the potential impact of the Conowingo Dam on state and county efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay under the federally mandated Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL).  As previously reported on Conduit Street,  concerns have been raised that a significant storm event will release large amounts nutrients (primarily phosphorus) and sediment into the main stem of Chesapeake Bay unless the Conowingo reservoir is dredged.

Harford County Executive David Craig said, “One storm like this completely  does away with 20 years of work” on local pollution controls.

“The EPA and the state of Maryland are not including the impacts of major  storms in their bay pollution models,” said Senate Republican leader E.J. Pipkin  of Cecil County. “Before the state and counties commit to such heavy  expenditures, Maryland should evaluate whether these efforts, in light of the  Susquehanna’s polluting potential, will be in vain.”  …

But Beth McGee, a senior scientist with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation who  attended the news conference, called the issue of the dam’s capacity to trap  pollution “a red herring” since the creeks and tributaries of the bay in  Maryland are polluted by local sources.

The Conowingo, which is owned by the energy company Exelon, is currently up for permit review by the Federal Regulatory Energy Commission (FERC) and some State and county have suggested that the permit should be held or conditioned on a solution to the Conowingo problem.  FERC recently requested additional information from Exelon, with a 60-day response time, which will push the permit process, including public comments, into early January.  MACo is examining the Conowingo issue and possible courses of action.

Notice of Application for Conowingo Permit from FERC website

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