Sun Editorial Criticizes Conowingo Dam Focus In Lieu of Local Bay Cleanup Efforts

A September 1 Baltimore Sun editorial discussed the place of the Conowingo Dam in cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay and criticized the position that  addressing the sediment and pollution coming from the Dam should be the primary or only Bay restoration effort.  The editorial argued that while the Conowingo and pollution generated by other Bay watershed states must be addressed, they should not be used an excuse to roll back local restoration efforts, including the 2012 stormwater remediation fee or “rain tax” legislation.  From the editorial:

There are serious issues involving the Conowingo and pollution coming from New York and Pennsylvania. But they should not be used as an excuse for dialing back Maryland’s own efforts to improve water quality and reduce nutrients, sediments and other harmful pollutants flowing into the Chesapeake, much of it running off land — from farm fields to city streets — when it rains. Doing less in a state that benefits directly from the Chesapeake is unlikely to inspire states that don’t even border it to do more.  …

That doesn’t mean Maryland shouldn’t seek potential remedies to Conowingo sediment — particularly now as Exelon, the dam’s owner, seeks to renew its license to operate it — but that the main focus should be on reducing pollution more broadly.  …

That doesn’t mean what happens at the dam is unimportant but it’s a complicated issue that requires context and a little bit of fact-checking. The muddy brown water that gets stirred up there in a major storm is unsightly and destructive, but it’s not the biggest threat to the bay. And it’s being used as an artificial issue by the same crowd that disparages efforts to clean up storm water pollution as a “rain tax.” How convenient to blame pollution on a privately-owned dam instead of looking at one’s own backyard.

The bottom line is that all states must be held accountable for water pollution, just as all individuals, businesses and governments in the watershed need to be accountable, too. Maryland doesn’t achieve that end if it elects leaders who would withdraw support from programs vital to restoring the Chesapeake Bay.

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