BALTIMORE (AP) — Sediments behind the Conowingo dam threatening bay restoration efforts must be dealt with sooner rather than later, and Exelon should be part of the solution as part of the relicensing of its hydro-electric power plant, a Maryland natural resources official said Tuesday.
Bruce Michael, director of the Resource Assessment Service at the Department of Natural Resources, made the comments as the Chesapeake Bay Program released a study using a new statistical method to gauge bay pollution levels that found sediment pollution from the dam has been increasing.
The dam across the Susquehanna River, the bay's major freshwater source, has kept sediments and other pollutants from reaching the bay for decades, but scientists warn it is reaching capacity. That means that storms more frequently are pushing muddy water over the dam, threatening ecologically important bay grasses, oysters and other species.
Options for dealing with the sediment are being developed by a commission that is to release proposals this summer. Those include dredging sediment from behind the dam or using pipes to carry it around. The sediment could be used to build islands and reefs in the bay, he said.
Michael said costs estimates had not been developed, but added it would cost millions of dollars and no one agency or private company would be able to address the cost on its own.
"Maryland wants to ensure that Exelon is part of the sediment management solution through the relicensing process," Michael said.
Exelon said in a statement Tuesday evening that it supports a regional approach to the health of the Chesapeake Bay as it relates to the operations of the Conowingo Dam.
"We are supportive of Lower Susquehanna River Watershed Assessment study and its parameters and reserve judgment on the as-of-yet undetermined next steps, and Exelon Generation's role following the conclusion of the study," the statement said.