Conowingo Dam Report Stokes Debate

A newly released report on the Chesapeake bay cleanup, seen by many as cooling momentum toward large-scale efforts to dredge the Susquehanna River behind the Conowingo Dam, has sparked controversy in this longstanding policy debate.

Background from the report’s source:

The Lower Susquehanna River Watershed Assessment (LSRWA) team, formed in 2011, has spent two years evaluating these sediment and nutrient issues. Its draft report, released November 13, 2014, includes comprehensive evaluation of the issues, findings and recommendations for management actions in the future to address the flow of pollutants downstream.

A public comment period on the draft LSRWA report is now open until Jan. 9, 2015.

Interested parties can submit comments via:

E-mail to

Letter postmarked by Jan 9, 2015, to: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District, Attn: Anna Compton , P.O. Box 1715, Baltimore, MD 21203.

A public meeting and webinar will be held December 9th at Harford Community College in Bel Air, Md., from 7 – 9 p.m. Details on the public meeting and log-in information for the webinar will be posted on the website, as well as other meeting materials. Once the comment period closes, the LSRWA team will address comments and publish the final report (anticipated for summer 2015) to better inform stakeholders undertaking efforts to restore the Chesapeake Bay.

For more information, visit the LSRWA webpage.

Review the draft report online.

The report’s release has been met with differing reactions from stakeholders. From coverage in the Capital Gazette:

“This new report shows that Conowingo Dam is not quite the bogeyman it has been made out to be for the bay,” said John Seebach, a senior director for American Rivers.

Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Maryland Executive Director Alison Prost called on upstream state New York, Pennsylvania and all the other bay states to implement the Chesapeake Bay blueprint. “Local pollution is the major problem for the bay,” she said. “Local clean-up efforts are necessary to save it.”

Some, like the Clean Chesapeake Coalition, differ.

“The study acknowledges the reservoirs have been trapping pollution and admits they are all full,” said Charles MacLeod, the attorney for the Coalition, which has urged dredging as an alternative or supplement to the bay cleanup plan. “Is this the new normal? The trapping capacity is gone … but dredging is not good for the bay because it will just fill in again?”

He said the report’s conclusions are almost “too convenient. The draft is saying, ‘Nice try. The (Conowingo sediment) is not that big a deal. Now get back to the WIPs.” The WIPs are each jurisdiction’s watershed cleanup plan.

Read the full Capital Gazette article online.

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties