Thursday, January 24, 2013

Legislators Still Pushing Conowingo Cure

Conowingo pressure builds
Jay Jacobs, E.J. Pipkin and other members of the Eastern Shore delegation want action on the Conowingo Dam sediment problem. They expressed their disappointment at Friday's Shore delegation meeting with state officials.

“There's been a lot of studies, a lot of meeting, but not a lot of action,” Sen. Pipkin said to Maryland Secretary of the Environment Robert Summers and Frank Dawson, assistant secretary for the Department of Natural Resources.

During his exchange with Pipkin, R-36-Upper Shore, Summers said scientists have been aware of sediment buildup behind it since at least 1972, when Hurricane Agnes hit the Susquehanna Valley and sent a record amount of sediment into the Chesapeake Bay. Every time the dam's floodgates open during a storm, sediment stirred up behind the dam by scouring flows into the bay. It adds onto whatever silt and debris is carried downstream by floodwaters above the dam.
Justified or not, Eastern Shore and other MD legislators have fastened onto the problem of Conowingo dam as a way out of or at least ameliorating the costs of the "Bay Diet".  If a significant bite out of the total amount of pollution coming into the bay can be removed and sequestered by Conowingo, then their communities (particularly the agricultural communities on the Eastern Shore) will have to chip in less.  Unfortunately, the movement is in the opposite direction; Conowingo is becoming a less efficient sediment trap every year, and so a greater share of the TMDL will have to be achieved by cutting ag, septic and sewage, and storm water run off.

Ultimately, a solution to the Conowingo problem may not be achieved; EPA has the unofficial position that dams are thing of the past and so a new dam, or even a restoration of the old pool behind the Conowingo Dam seems unlikely.

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