In settlement with Maryland, Conowingo Dam owner Exelon to invest $200 million to clean up Susquehanna River, Scott Dance, Baltimore Sun, October 29, 2019
Waterkeepers Chesapeake Executive Director Betsy Nicholas said she was pleased to see the deal calls for investment in eel and mussel populations, both species that have suffered since the dam has blocked upstream access.
Nicholas said she is also concerned that the deal does not set aside enough money to deal with the risk of a hurricane or other major rainstorm washing out a large amount of the sediment and nitrogen trapped behind the dam. Waterkeepers Chesapeake and the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper appealed the state Conowingo permit last year because of those concerns, and Nicholas said that petition is remains pending despite the settlement.
“At no point in this process have we seen anything that would really address that threat,” she said.
Grumbles said the agreement includes $250,000 a year to monitor the scouring of material from behind the dam, providing information that could show how best to address concerns about the sediment and nitrogen polluting downstream waterways.
While groups including Waterkeepers Chesapeake, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the Nature Conservancy have been formally involved in the dam’s license renewal process, they are not a party to the settlement, Nicholas said. They also have no power to make sure the money Exelon is committing to various programs will be spent on those initiatives; the agreement calls for the company to deposit the money into the state’s Clean Water Fund, a pot of money the state uses for environmental projects around Maryland.
“As groups who consider ourselves sort of watchdogs on industry and government, we’d like to have some enforceable power,” Nicholas said.