Governor Larry Hogan Holds First Conowingo Dam Summit
Announces Multi-Agency Work Group, Request for Information to Find Solutions for Reducing Bay Pollution
ANNAPOLIS, MD – Governor Larry Hogan today held Maryland’s first Conowingo Dam Summit, and announced the formation of a multi-agency work group to seek innovative solutions for reducing pollution that threatens the Chesapeake Bay. The Hogan administration also announced a formal Request for Information to help find solutions, and determine if dredging of the Conowingo Dam and re-use of dredged materials can be done in an efficient and effective way. Speaking at an event on the Susquehanna River, the governor was joined by Maryland Secretary of Natural Resources Mark Belton, Secretary of the Environment Ben Grumbles, Secretary of Planning Wendi Peters, Secretary of Agriculture Joe Bartenfelder, and Acting Director of the Maryland Environmental Service John O’Neill.
“As our administration continues to find ways to safeguard the Chesapeake Bay, we must address the problem of sediment, much of which originates here at the Susquehanna River and the Conowingo Dam,” said Governor Hogan. “By issuing this Request for Information, we are calling for innovative minds to step forward with good ideas, so that we can tackle this problem from all angles, with everything we’ve got.”
The Conowingo Dam, located on the Susquehanna River, has been producing clean and cost-effective energy since 1928. The Susquehanna is the largest tributary to the Chesapeake Bay, providing about half of its fresh water and accounting for almost half of the bay’s nitrogen pollution, a quarter of its phosphorus pollution, and a quarter of its sediment pollution. The majority of the bay’s watershed exists outside of Maryland, and during a major storm event, 70 to 80 percent of all sediment that flows into the Susquehanna is from the upstream watershed in Pennsylvania and New York.
A study finalized earlier this year by the Lower Susquehanna River Watershed Assessment confirmed that the Conowingo Dam reservoir has essentially reached its capacity and is no longer capable of trapping sediment and associated nutrients over the long term—underscoring the urgency of finding practical solutions. The study also found that increased sediments and nutrients flowing over the dam must be addressed to meet Chesapeake Bay restoration goals, as required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Pennsylvania and New York are also required to meet these stated goals to reduce pollution by 2025.
The implementation of multiple strategies, funded by federal, state, local, and private partners, will be needed to address this issue. Governor Hogan’s newly established work group—composed of representatives from the Maryland Departments of the Environment, Natural Resources, and Planning; the Maryland Port Authority; the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science; the U.S. Geological Survey; the Army Corps of Engineers; the Susquehanna River Basin Commission; and Maryland Environmental Service—will convene and issue a Request for Information seeking detailed ideas on how pollution in the bay can be addressed. The group is also seeking ideas on how dredging of the Conowingo Dam and beneficial re-uses of dredged material can be accomplished in the most economically and technically feasible way possible. The request is expected to be formally issued in September.
The Hogan administration has been a leader in promoting real solutions to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay, the state’s most precious natural resource. In 2015, the Hogan administration established enhanced Phosphorus Management Tool (PMT) regulations, bringing the agricultural and environmental communities together with a fair and balanced plan for limiting phosphorus levels. PMT will limit or prohibit phosphorus application in soils already heavily saturated and should incrementally reduce residual levels of phosphorus in the soil over time. This year, the Hogan administration invested $53 million in the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund, the highest level of funding since the Fund was established. Governor Hogan’s FY 17 budget was also the first in state history that did not divert funding dedicated specifically for the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay to the general fund.