BALTIMORE (WJZ) — For almost 90 years, Conowingo Dam has provided hydroelectricity and held back much of the dirt that washed off the land into the Susquehanna River.
Last year, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan warned: “Conowingo Dam Reservoir has reached capacity and is no longer able to trap sediment.”
Heavy rain could set it loose as it did in 2011.
Tropical Storm Lee sent a plume of sediment into the Bay, stretching from the dam to the Potomac River.
When interviewed by WJZ last year, Rob Newberry with the Delmarva Fisheries Association said, “There was major sedimentation. Destroyed vast areas of oyster bottom. It’s something that has to be addressed.”
Now, Maryland’s Department of Environment has done just that, holding a license renewal over the head of energy company Exelon.
“They own the dam. They’re seeking a 50-year license. The State of Maryland has the opportunity, and the governor insists the obligation, to make real progress in protecting the river and the Chesapeake Bay,” MDE Secretary Ben Grumbles said.
Options include dredging behind the dam, along with better river management upstream.
In a statement, Exelon says the dam does not produce pollution itself, but it will work with the state on long-term solutions.
While the pressure is on Exelon, it isn’t Maryland’s only focus.
“Upstream partners, their feet need to be held to the fire too — such as Pennsylvania, New York, communities, farms upstream — to pollute less,” Grumbles said.