Maryland's Governor Announces Dredging Plans for Conowingo Dam

Maryland DNR

Maryland DNR

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced Tuesday, the state will launch a pilot program to dredge the Conowingo Dam.

Hogan has been calling for a fix for the problem of sediment flowing from upstream states through the dam and into the Chesapeake Bay.

The Conowingo Dam is designed to trap the sediment that carries phosphorus and nitrogen down the Susquehanna River, but the dam's reservoir is at capacity and can no longer trap any sediment at all, according to a U.S. Geological Survey study.

One solution to the problem may be dredging huge amounts of the sediment that has filled in, and finding something efficient to do with all of the fill that is being cleared. That project is estimated to cost at least $3 billion.

On Tuesday, Hogan held the state's second annual Conowingo Dam Summit, in Darlington, Md. After that private meeting, he announced publicly that he has set a timeline for a new "test dredging" program.

The state will issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) August 31, looking for a company to dredge 25,000 cubic yards of fill from behind the dam. That contract will be awarded this fall, with dredging to begin this winter. Later, scientists will look at the small "test area" that is dredged, to determine if it's worth dredging all of the sediment, at great cost.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation reacted to the governor's plan with words of caution.

In a statement, Maryland Executive Director Alison Prost said, "While dredging could be a part of the solution . . . the most cost effective approach to reducing pollution coming across the dam is to implement practices that will reduce pollution upstream."

CBF and other environmental groups continue to urge the governor to hold Exelon Corporation, which owns the dam, partly responsible.

"Governor Hogan should require Exelon, which owns and profits from the dam, to contribute a portion of its profits to help reduce pollution coming down the Susquehanna River."

Megan Viviano