FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Department of the Environment solicits comment, schedules public hearing on Water Quality Certification application for proposed Conowingo Dam relicensing
Applicant must show project will comply with State water quality standards; MDE states intention to deny application due to insufficient information
Baltimore, MD (November 18, 2014) –
The Maryland Department of the Environment has issued public notice of the Proposed Relicensing of the Conowingo Hydroelectric Project Application for Water Quality Certification. The purpose of the notice is to solicit comments from the public and to announce the scheduling of a public hearing.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has issued a one-year extension of the current license for the operation of the Conowingo Dam. Under federal law and as part of FERC’s relicensing process, Exelon is required to obtain a Clean Water Act, Section 401 Water Quality Certification from MDE for the continued operation of the facility. Issuance of a Water Quality Certification is contingent upon the applicant demonstrating to MDE that the project will comply with State water quality standards. At this time, although no final determination has been made MDE intends to deny the application due to insufficient information provided by the applicant regarding the impacts of the activity on State water quality standards.
The insufficiency of information is reflected in the draft Lower Susquehanna River Watershed Assessment report. The draft report found that the loss of long-term sediment trapping capacity at the Conowingo Dam is causing impacts to the health of the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem. It also found that additional nutrient pollution associated with these changed conditions in the lower Susquehanna River system could result in Maryland not being able to meet Chesapeake Bay water quality standards, even with full implementation of Watershed Implementation Plans by 2025, in some of the Bay’s deeper northern waters. The draft report recommends additional study to quantity the full impact on Bay water quality caused by conditions at the Conowingo Dam. Enhanced monitoring is planned over the next two years.
If it is ultimately determined that the project cannot comply with State water quality standards, the applicant could be required to mitigate the impacts to water quality through, for example, actions taken at the facility or by offsetting the facility’s impacts with pollution reduction activities at other locations in the watershed.
Exelon filed its Water Quality Certification application on January 31, 2014. The State must act within one year of receipt of the application or it waives its right to make a decision. Notice of the application, solicitation of public comments and the scheduling of a public hearing were published in the Maryland Register. A public hearing on this application is scheduled for January 7, 2015, at MDE’s Baltimore headquarters. Written comments may also be submitted. All comments must be received by the close of business on January 7, 2015.
Information on the notice, including information on submitting written comments, is on MDE’s website at http://bit.ly/MDEConowingowqc.
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