On Tuesday, Governor Larry Hogan said the state would start requesting bids from companies this month for a pilot project that would involve removing sediment from the Conowingo Dam and reusing it.
State officials are concerned sediment overflow from dam, an Exelon-owned hydroelectric generating station on Susquehanna River, is a source of pollution for the Chesapeake Bay.
The test project would determine whether dredging the dam on a larger scale would help improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay, Hogan said. During the test project, a small amount of the sediment trapped behind the dam will be removed.
The dam’s purpose is to control water flow and prevent sediment from overwhelming the underwater grasses that are vital for life in the Chesapeake Bay. Farmers are also pushing for the dredging operation, because preventing contaminants from reaching the waterways have become too costly.
Sediment is a material broken down by erosion and weathering. Since the space behind the dam is completely filled to capacity, it is no longer able to continue trapping the sediment. Recent improvements in the Chesapeake Bay’s health could be wiped out with one big storm, Hogan said.
Maryland Secretary of the Environment, Benjamin H. Grumbles, estimated the test project to cost about $4 million. The dredge project is expected to start before the spring of 2018.