Susquehanna River Basin Commission to study pollution capacity at Conowingo Dam

The Susquehanna River Basin Commission plans to launch a sediment study at Conowingo Dam by the end of this year, and warned the dam's ability to hold back pollution could be coming to an end.

"This is something that has been talked about and talked about for many years, but nothing has been done," Herbert Sachs, who represents Maryland on the commission, said at the group's meeting at Cecil College in North East Thursday morning.

He said the U.S. Geological Survey estimated the 82-year-old dam will reach its capacity in about 10 years, unless something is done to target the sediment and pollutants it collects.

Sachs said the study would take three years, and the commission hopes to start it by the end of this year, with the help of the Army Corps of Engineers.

Brig. Gen. Peter DeLuca, who represents the U.S. government on the commission, said the federal government is seeking to better understand the capacity at Conowingo, the mile-long hydroelectric dam that straddles the Susquehanna River between Harford and Cecil counties.

The commission marked its 40th anniversary Thursday, and executive director Paul Swartz recalled the group's early years being founded by New York state delegate Frederick Zimmermann in the early 1960s.

David Heicher, the group's manager for research and grants, said the water resources program is focusing on the Chesapeake Bay priority management area for fiscal years 2012 and 2013.

It will look at creating flow protections for the river and bay through the re-licensing process for the power regeneration facility, water quality monitoring, sediment studies and watershed restoration.

Hydrologic conditions are expected to be good this year. Drought conditions so far have shown the basin area to be a little dry, but normal, Heicher said.

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