Re-licensing of hydroelectric project impacts the Susquehanna River and Chesapeake Bay
(Pittsburgh – September 27, 2013) – PennFuture filed on September 25 a motion to intervene in the re-licensing proceedings of the Conowingo Hydroelectric Project, managed by Exelon Generation Company and located on the Susquehanna River just across the Pennsylvania border in Maryland. In its petition, the environmental organization expressed concern that the Conowingo Dam had to be properly managed to prevent adverse impacts to water quality and restore migratory fish to the Susquehanna River and other Pennsylvania streams.
The Susquehanna River is one of five major tributaries to the Chesapeake Bay. The Conowingo impounds thousands of tons of sediment and other pollutants behind the dam, and hampers the ability of migratory fish from reaching their historic fresh water spawning grounds.
“The re-licensing of the Conowingo must be done in a way that ensures the sediment and other pollutants behind the dam are managed to protect water quality standards in the Bay,” said George Jugovic, Jr., chief counsel for PennFuture. “The continued operation of the Dam must also update strategies to improve the ability of native migratory fish populations such as the American eel, American shad, and American sturgeon to rebuild to healthy levels in the Susquehanna River and its tributaries such as the Octoraro Creek.”
Sediment is a water pollutant that both carries other pollutants, like phosphorous and nitrogen, and reduces the clarity of the water in the Chesapeake Bay. The Susquehanna contributes 50 percent of fresh water to the Bay, and is the largest source of sediment. Any decision to extend Exelon’s license to operate the Dam must address the fate of current sediment impounded by the Dam, and how future sediment will be managed to protect and improve water quality of the Susquehanna River and Chesapeake Bay.
Restoring American eel and other migratory fish to the Susquehanna River and its tributaries is vital to establishing and maintaining a healthy ecosystem. The current fish lifts at the Conowingo Dam are inadequate to achieve these goals, and they will meet their life expectancy during this license cycle. Consequently, long term passage solutions for migratory fish at the Conowingo Dam must also be addressed during this proceeding.
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PennFuture is a statewide public interest membership organization founded in 1998 with offices in Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Philadelphia and Wilkes-Barre. PennFuture’s activities include litigating cases before regulatory bodies and in local, state, and federal courts; advocating and advancing legislative action on a state and federal level; public education; and assisting citizens in public advocacy.
The Philadelphia Inquirer called PennFuture the “state’s leading environmental advocacy organization;” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette named the organization “one of the 10 most influential groups on the issue of natural gas drilling;” and StateImpact Pennsylvania, an online collaboration of NPR stations across the state, called PennFuture “the commonwealth’s main environmental advocate.”