Bitterness, like water, recedes in Port Deposit Town, dam officials seek higher ground of cooperation after flood


Relations between the town of Port Deposit and neighboring Conowingo Dam are easing, with local officials and some residents no longer blaming the hydroelectric plant for millions of dollars in damage from the flooding of two weeks ago.

But town officials say they still want the dam's operators to change emergency procedures and call the town directly and immediately the next time disaster threatens, said Paul Kozloski, town administrator.

"I believe the dam had to do what it had to do," he said, referring to the operators' decision to open as many as 42 of the dam's 52 floodgates -- relieving pressure from the raging Susquehanna River, but sending a sudden eight-foot wall of water downstream.

But like many of the 750 people who live in Port Deposit, Mr. Kozloski remains angry that dam officials called the county's emergency operations -- and not the town -- to report the crisis and warn that flooding was imminent for the town about two miles away.

"What's really important," said Mayor Erma Keetley, "is that next time the dam tells us -- directly -- how many floodgates they are opening and when."

PECO Energy Co., which operates the dam, said it will be at least a month before it finishes its investigation and decides on procedural changes, said spokesman Michael Wood.

"We have been meeting with the residents of Port Deposit and trying to rebuild relationships and regain their understanding of how the dam operates and communicates," Mr. Wood said. "There is some handholding going on."

PECO officials plan to meet with residents at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in the town hall, 64 S. Main St.

Port Deposit is continuing to tally damages. The town learned Friday that it would receive grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for repairs to its roads, bridges and municipal buildings.

FEMA, which already had agreed to make low-interest loans and grants to flood victims, was to close its Port Deposit office yesterday. The American Red Cross, which helped about 200 families with emergency shelter, food and clothing, closed shop Friday.

The town also received substantial help from businesses, with donations of building supplies -- including thousands of gallons of paint from Duron Paints and $5,000 worth of drywall and other items from Home Depot's White Marsh store.

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