One of the most unique bodies of water in the world exists right here in our own backyard: the Chesapeake Bay – the largest estuary in the United States and the most productive in the world. As you know part of our mission here at the Department of Natural Resources is the enhancement, protection and restoration of the bay for the enjoyment and use of everyone, be it anglers, beachgoers, boaters, sailors, tourists or watermen.
That’s why – as a state and a department – we’re taking a closer look at the Conowingo Dam located on the lower Susquehanna River. Last month, I attended the first-ever Conowingo Dam Summit, hosted by Governor Larry Hogan, where we established a state, federal and private workgroup to consider cost-effective and innovative ways to address the excess sediments and nutrients behind the dam.
While the hydroelectric dam was not created or designed to filter out pollutants from upstream in New York, Pennsylvania or a small portion of Maryland, we now know that the dam’s reservoirs have reached full sediment storage capacity and are no longer holding back nutrients and sediment like they once did. Now during large storm events, rain and wind scour the sediment and associated nutrients from behind the dam and distribute them downstream right into the Upper Chesapeake Bay, putting our fishery, underwater grasses, restoration work and water quality improvements in jeopardy.
For this reason and more, Governor Hogan announced that the state is seeking ideas to dredge the material behind dam and perhaps even re-purpose the dredged material toward a positive end-result, such as the creation of building material like light weight aggregates or soil enhancements. We are committed to addressing the sediments and nutrients behind Conowingo Dam to ensure that we meet our Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement goals on time.
The governor is fond of calling the Chesapeake Bay, “Maryland’s most precious natural resource,” and I know that many residents including myself agree. For the sake of the bay and the progress we have worked so hard to achieve, it is time to develop cost effective and innovative strategies to address the Conowingo Dam.
Natural Resources Secretary
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