Conservation Groups Intervene In Conowingo Dam Relicensing

A July 23 Chestertown Spy article reports that a coalition of conservation groups have filed a motion to intervene in the federal relicensing of the Conowingo Dam.  The interveners are requesting that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) require the Dam’s owner, Exelon Corporation, to agree to mitigate the significant amounts of sediment pollution that has collected behind the Dam before granted a renewal to Exelon’s operating license..  The Dam acts as a massive “pollution net” that traps upstream sediment and nutrient pollution (especially phosphorous) from entering the main stem of the Chesapeake Bay.  From the article:

A coalition of conservation groups from the Lower Susquehanna River Basin and the Chesapeake Bay have filed a motion to intervene in the federal relicensing negotiations of the Conowingo Hydroelectric Dam – calling for a commitment from the dam’s owner, Exelon Corporation, to mitigate almost 200 million tons of sediment pollution that has amassed behind the dam since its construction in 1928.

“Our seven years of research on Conowingo leaves us with no doubt that the unnatural amounts of sediment that are scoured from Conowingo Pond into the Bay during major storm events are damaging the Bay, making the work of cleaning up the Bay even more difficult,” said Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Michael Helfrich, who represents Stewards of the Lower Susquehanna (SOLS). “Solutions to this, and other impacts, must be addressed in this relicensing process.”

The interveners, which consist of 100 groups and individuals from SOLS and 18 riverkeepers from Waterkeepers Chesapeake, say they “support relicensing of the Dam as long as the final license includes adequate plans to mitigate the environmental and recreational impacts caused by the Dam.”

SOLS and Waterkeepers Chesapeake filed on the grounds that they would feel the direct impact of adverse conditions “adopted in the final Dam license” and that the relicensing proceedings are “vital for determining what will be done about the Dam’s impoundment and release of large amounts of pollutants – especially sediment.”

As previously reported on Conduit Street, the Clean Chesapeake Coalition has also filed for intervener status and supports the intervention motion by the conservation groups.  Conduit Street has also reported that addressing the Conowingo pollution issue as part of Exelon’s relicensing is a priority of the Chesapeake Bay Commission and that MACo supports achieving such a resolution.