In response to a U.S. Army Corps Of Engineers report issued Monday saying the Conowingo Dam reservoir has reached the limit of its ability to trap sediment coming down the Susquehanna River, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation Friday called on the federal government to immediately provide Pennsylvania with $5 million to help farmers reduce sediment runoff from agricultural areas.
“The report confirms again that our efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay must include working upstream where pollution originates,” said Kim Coble, Vice President of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. “The report also echoes earlier findings that while the Conowingo Dam has reduced pollution entering the Bay for decades, that trapping capacity has been reduced so that more sediment and nutrients now make it past the dam, especially during major storms.
“Pennsylvania has made progress in reducing pollution entering the roughly 49,000 miles of streams that feed into the Susquehanna River above the dam, but it needs to do far more. Gov. Wolf has committed to a “reboot” of the Commonwealth’s efforts, but significantly greater investments and political action are necessary to help reduce pollution, especially from agriculture.
“We call on the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency to assist Pennsylvania by immediately providing $5 million for technical and financial assistance for farmers; on Congress to ensure conservation funding is not cut from federal appropriations; and on the Wolf Administration to prioritize the components of the state’s “reboot” plan that will provide support to farmers and to efforts to clean up our polluted rivers and streams,” said Coble.
“The report underscores the need to address the scour of pollution from behind the dam, but even in big storms most pollution isn’t coming from the dam, but from upstream. We must stop pollution entering the Susquehanna, as well as all other Bay tributaries.”
The findings in the report said in part—
“Given the often smaller contribution of the sediment load to the Bay from Conowingo Reservoir scour in comparison to the watershed (under most hydrologic conditions), the primary impact to aquatic life in the Bay is from sediment and nutrients from the Susquehanna River watershed and the rest of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. However, both sources of sediment and nutrient loads, reservoir scour and watershed load, should be addressed to protect aquatic life in Chesapeake Bay.”
“The seven Chesapeake Bay watershed jurisdictions (Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia) have developed watershed implementation plans (WIPs), which detail how each of the Bay watershed jurisdictions will meet their assigned nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment load allocations as part of the Chesapeake Bay total maximum daily loads (TMDLs), and achieve all dissolved oxygen (DO), water clarity, SAV, and algae (measured as chlorophyll) levels required for healthy aquatic life. Implementation of the WIPs was estimated to have a far larger influence on the health of Chesapeake Bay in comparison to scouring of the lower Susquehanna River reservoirs.”
A copy of the report is available online.
For more on Chesapeake Bay-related issues in Pennsylvania, visit the CBF-PA webpage. Click Here to sign up for Pennsylvania updates (bottom of left column). Click Here for a copy of CBF-PA’s most recent newsletter.
(Photo: MarylandReporter.com take in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Lee in 2011.)
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