State Officials Tout ‘Holistic Approach’ to Combat Conowingo Dam Pollution

    The Hogan administration said Monday that it is making “significant progress” toward combating environmental problems associated with the Conowingo Dam on the Susquehanna River.

    Experts believe sediment, nutrients and other pollutants that pass through the dam from upriver states contributes heavily to pollution in the Chesapeake Bay, and Maryland officials have been pressuring New York and Pennsylvania to do a better job of fighting pollution in their states. But the Conowingo, a dam that generates hydropower, may also be failing.

    Earlier this month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) signed off on the Conowingo Watershed Implementation Plan, a multi-state strategy developed by the Chesapeake Bay Program partnership, which Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) currently chairs. EPA announced that it is taking bids from contractors to implement the plan.

    The state has recently selected a bidder to carry out a $3 million pilot project for dredging, beneficial reuse, and testing of sediment behind the dam, which will mostly be completed by year’s end. And the Hogan continues to press Exelon Corporation for tighter environmental controls at the dam as the company seeks to renew its 50-year license to generate power there.

    Maryland is currently involved in litigation and administrative procedures with Exelon. In October, the Circuit Court for Baltimore City dismissed Exelon’s challenge there (although Exelon is appealing the dismissal). Exelon’s request that MDE reconsider its decision to deny a Water Quality Certification is also pending with the department. MDE has filed a motion to dismiss a complaint filed by Exelon in U.S. District Court.

    “Maryland’s holistic strategy on the Conowingo Dam is a smart way to restore the Chesapeake Bay,” said Maryland Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles. “With a cleanup plan specific to the Conowingo Dam, dredging that provides materials for beneficial reuse, and an environmental plan for the dam’s relicensing that includes stringent environmental conditions, we can help launch a restoration economy and restore the Bay.”

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    Josh Kurtz
    Co-founder and Editor Josh Kurtz is the leading chronicler of Maryland politics and government. He began covering the State House in 1995 for The Gazette newspapers, and has been writing about state and local politics ever since. He later became an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, and spent eight years at E&E News, an online subscription-only publisher of news websites covering energy and environmental issues. For seven of those years, he led a staff of 20 reporters at E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill and in national politics. For 6 1/2 years he wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz has given speeches and appeared on TV and radio shows about Maryland politics through the years.