Hogan opens door to dredging behind Conowingo Dam
PORT DEPOSIT — Gov. Larry Hogan chose a cliff overlooking the Conowingo Dam on Thursday afternoon, July 7, to announce his administration’s sharpened focus on finding out more about the role played by Susquehanna River sediment to the pollution of the Chesapeake Bay.
Hogan said his administration is eyeing potential dredging of the sediment that has reached its storage capacity behind the Conowingo Dam.
“It can’t trap any more sediment. ... I’ve said all along that Maryland should be leading the charge to clean up the Bay,” Hogan said, confirming his administration has been working on finding solutions for the last 17 months. “We must address the sediment issue, which has been ignored for years.”
After conducting Maryland’s first Conowingo Dam Summit at the Donaldson Brown Center in Port Deposit July 7, Hogan announced the formation of a multi-agency work group to seek innovative solutions to reduce pollution that threatens the Chesapeake Bay.
A formal request for information will serve as the tool to gather information from the private sector on potential solutions for the work group.
“By issuing this RFI, we are calling for innovative minds to step up with good ideas, so we can tackle this problem from all angles with everything we got,” Hogan said.
Ron Fithian, chairman of the Clean Chesapeake Coalition and a Kent County commissioner, attended the July 7 announcement along with coalition attorney Charles “Chip” MacLeod.
“This is a historic day,” Fithian said. “This is the single issue behind the formation of the Clean Chesapeake Coalition. I feel so good that our governor is not taking the easy way out. I think a lot of good things are coming.”
Fithian said that all progress made to clean up the Chesapeake Bay could be lost with one large storm, a common refrain from members of the coalition who believe stormwater containing sediment and debris plays a large role in the degradation of the Bay.
The coalition was formed when former Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration was looking at agriculture as one of the biggest contributors to pollution of the Bay. The coalition is funded by several Eastern Shore counties, including Cecil County.
Hogan emphasized the importance of Pennsylvania and New York getting involved in the effort to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.
“Pennsylvania in particular, but also New York, have a major role to play and we’re going to try to make sure they are participants with us,” he told the Cecil Whig before his announcement. “We’ve had some encouraging preliminary discussions with Pennsylvania and we’re going to continue to press to see if we can get them involved. There’s going to be some upstream suggestions of things we can do in Pennsylvania.”
Following the news conference, Maryland Secretary of the Environment Benjamin Grumbles said that greater cooperation between the Susquehanna River states of New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland will be needed to properly tackle the issue.
“It won’t be all sticks, we have to offer carrots as well,” he said. “We are in preliminary discussions with Pennsylvania about creating interstate nutrient credits. We want all our decisions to be driven by science and best data and we don’t want to rush it.”
“Exelon will also have to play a part in this,” Hogan added.
The governor said the work group is going to look at solutions, such as dredging, but also beneficial reuse of dredge materials. All of this activity is moving ahead during the re-licensing process for Exelon to operate the Conowingo Dam.
Grumbles said that the re-licensing decision has been delayed once and indicated it could be delayed again if more time is needed to gather information.
Gov. Larry Hogan, flanked by Maryland Secretary of the Environment Benjamin Grumbles and Acting Maryland Secretary of Planning Wendi Peters, announces a new work group to assess the impact of sediment buildup behind the Conowingo Dam on Thursday, July 7.