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Hogan calls for ideas to address Conowingo sediment

Gov. Larry Hogan warns that the Conowingo Dam threatens significant setbacks in Chesapeake Bay cleanup.

Gov. Larry Hogan is asking the private sector for ideas on how to prevent massive reservoirs of sediment from spilling over the Conowingo Dam and polluting the Chesapeake Bay.

Warning that years of progress at cleaning up waterways "could easily be wiped out" by a single hurricane inundating the Susquehanna River, the governor said he is also gathering various state agencies in a new work group to oversee the issue.

Millions of tons of sediment have accumulated behind the Conowingo, the lowest of a series of dams on the Susquehanna and the last barrier between much of the Chesapeake Bay watershed and the waterway itself.

The dam's sediment reservoirs are at capacity, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates dredging them would cost billions of dollars.

"Simply put: This is a growing problem. It's getting worse, and it must be solved," Hogan said Thursday at a news conference overlooking the river.

The dam's owner, Exelon Corp., is in the process of renewing a nearly 50-year federal license to generate hydroelectric power there. That is giving the state and environmentalists an opportunity to weigh in on the Conowingo's influence on bay health.

Hogan said he plans to issue a request for information in September, asking private companies for their ideas on ways to efficiently and effectively dredge behind the Conowingo and reuse the dredged material.

The new work group will oversee that process, he said. It will include representatives from the state's departments of the environment, natural resources and planning, the Maryland Port Administration, the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Susquehanna River Basin Commission and the Maryland Environmental Service.

Hogan said the sediment pollution is "not just a Maryland problem" and his administration is looking for ways to either force or persuade its neighbors to help.

Hogan, a Republican, campaigned on a pledge to shift the burden of bay cleanup from Maryland's businesses, farmers and homeowners to Exelon and upstream states Pennsylvania and New York.

"We're going to save the Susquehanna," Hogan said. "Pennsylvania has to pay its fair share."

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