Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Maryland Governor Announces $200 Million Agreement With Exelon On Conowingo Dam To Improve Water Quality In Lower Susquehanna, Chesapeake Bay

On October 29, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced a comprehensive agreement between the Maryland Department of the Environment and Exelon Generation Company, LLC, which requires Exelon to invest more than $200 million in environmental projects and operational enhancements to improve water quality in the Lower Susquehanna River and the Chesapeake Bay.
The agreement settles Exelon’s legal challenges to the water quality certification issued in 2018 by Maryland under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act, removing the prospect of years of costly litigation and delay and, instead, setting the stage for immediate and lasting water quality benefits.
“Our administration has committed an historic $5 billion toward wide-ranging bay initiatives and taken bold and aggressive steps to address the challenges posed by pollution, sediment, and debris at the Conowingo Dam,” said Gov. Hogan. “This settlement is a significant and positive step in the right direction, and with the cooperation of Exelon and upstream states, we can continue making progress in our efforts to preserve and protect this great national treasure.”
Under the agreement, Exelon will make a total investment of more than $200 million, including nearly $107 million in cash payments to support these environmental initiatives:
-- $52 million to implement new requirements for flow control that will create more natural conditions in the Lower Susquehanna River, resulting in enhancements to aquatic life and the downstream ecosystem, and better upstream migratory fish passage.
-- $47 million for climate resiliency projects, including submerged aquatic vegetation, clams, oysters, and restoration of living shorelines.
-- $41 million to significantly increase efforts to remove trash and debris flowing down the Susquehanna River.
-- $25 million for an unprecedented initiative to restore a healthy population of water-filtering mussels in the Susquehanna River, including contribution of land for the construction of a 40,000 square foot, state-of-the-art hatchery.
-- $19 million for other projects to improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay, including agricultural projects such as cover crops and forest buffers.
-- $12 million to support MDE and the Department of Natural Resources in overseeing and implementing the agreement.
-- $11 million⁠—over and above the commitments already made by Exelon in its 2016 settlement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service⁠—to make upgrades and operational changes to improve the passage of migrating fish and eels.
-- $5 million to conduct chlorophyll A monitoring and reporting.
-- $1 million for eel-related research and projects.
-- $500,000 to fund a study of dredged material management options.
Elements of the agreement will be submitted for approval to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission  as part of the licensing renewal for the dam.
“This agreement charts a bold course for clean water and climate resiliency in the Susquehanna River and Chesapeake Bay,” said Maryland Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles. “This comprehensive, enforceable commitment by Exelon is part of Maryland’s holistic strategy to improve water quality and accelerate the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay.”
The settlement builds on commitments Exelon has previously made to improve environmental and recreational conditions at and around the dam. 
In 2016, Exelon entered into a settlement agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to implement critical improvements to the fish passage facilities at the dam, which Exelon estimates will require investments exceeding $300 million. 
Exelon also estimates that it will invest more than $120 million to make enhancements to recreational sites, including dredging of Broad Creek, Conowingo Creek, Peters Creek, and Glen Cove Marina.
Scientific reports confirm that the Conowingo Dam has reached full capacity and can no longer stop pollution from entering the bay, which severely threatens the state’s and region’s ability to meet Chesapeake Bay cleanup goals. 
The Hogan administration’s holistic strategy includes conditions relating to the proposed relicensing of the dam, a pilot project on beneficial reuse of dredged material, and an unprecedented, multi-state Watershed Implementation Plan specifically for the effects of upstream discharges and the lost trapping capacity of the Conowingo Dam on Chesapeake Bay restoration.
In response to the settlement, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation Maryland Executive Director Alison Prost issued the following statement:
“We still need more details on the settlement agreement. However, we believe Exelon’s identified projects and the roughly $4 million per year commitment over the dam’s nearly 50-year licensing agreement are insufficient investments to offset the negative water quality impacts caused by the dam’s operations. Based on our previous analysis, Exelon can and should invest more. CBF has long held that Exelon is responsible for mitigating pollution from the Conowingo Dam and the best way to do so is by addressing it with significant environmental improvements upstream.”
For more on Chesapeake Bay-related issues in Pennsylvania, visit the Chesapeake Bay Foundation-PA webpage.  Click Here to sign up for Pennsylvania updates (bottom of left column).  Click Here to support their work.
For more information on how Pennsylvania is meeting its water pollution reduction obligations, visit DEP’s PA’s Chesapeake Bay Plan webpage.
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[Posted: October 29, 2019]  www.PaEnvironmentDigest.com

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