June 29: Town Hall: Conowingo Dam’s Massive Threat to Bay Cleanup

Conowingo Dam, May 2019. Photo credit: John Pavoncello

The Conowingo Dam is the single most important issue as well as the largest threat to the success of the Chesapeake Bay cleanup plan. The Conowingo Dam sits on the Susquehanna River just a few miles from the Chesapeake Bay holding back debris and over 200 tons of sediment and nutrient pollution that spill over into the bay during our ever-increasing extreme weather events. Two recent developments in the relicensing and regulation of the dam call into question whether or not we will do the right thing in mitigating the most important threat to the restoration of the Bay and the Susquehanna River.

Join us for a town hall discussion on June 29 about these developments and the future of the Conowingo Dam cleanup. Marc Steiner will moderate a discussion of representatives from Waterkeepers Chesapeake, Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper, Sassafras Riverkeeper, and Chesapeake Bay Foundation about their challenge to the federal license filed on June 17th, and plans to address the 50-year federal dam license and ensure accountability and fairness in the dam cleanup over the next 50 years. Watermen, a Citizens Advisory Committee member, and other stakeholders will join in the discussion.

Date: Tuesday, June 29
Time: 6:30pm – 8:00pm
Register here to receive meeting login

In March, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved Exelon’s Conowingo relicensing for the next 50 years. This license will include the extremely flawed 2019 settlement agreement between the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) and Exelon. In the agreement, Maryland waives its authority under the Clean Water Act to require a Water Quality Certification for the relicensing of the dam. In addition, it provides grossly insufficient funds to deal with the risks that Conowingo operations pose to the Susquehanna River and Chesapeake Bay, and lacks concrete assurances that the actions under the agreement will actually be fulfilled by Exelon.

The EPA’s evaluation of the Conowingo Watershed Implementation Plan (CWIP) came out in May. EPA noted that even though the financing plan is still in development, there’s a lack of confidence that this plan can be carried out without clear public funding sources identified. The earliest CWIP framework documents included Exelon as the likely source for funding the plan.

Bay state taxpayers are now left with the responsibility of paying for the dam cleanup instead of requiring Exelon to pay its fair share. The Water Quality Certification that MDE issued in 2018 required $172 million per year just to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus pollution. The actual cost of meaningfully reducing the 200 million tons of nutrients and sediment behind the dam was estimated to be between $53 – $300 million per year in the CWIP.

This is our only opportunity in the next 50 years to get meaningful pollution reductions at Conowingo Dam.

 

Thank you to MOMs Organic Market for sponsoring the event.