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EPA awards grants to support pollutant reduction plan tied to Conowingo reservoir infill

09/26/2019
Contact Information: 
EPA Region 3 Press Office (R3press@epa.gov)

PHILADELPHIA – (September 26, 2019) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced awards totaling nearly $600,000 for three projects to further a joint Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) to compensate for the loss of pollutant trapping capacity in the Conowingo Dam reservoir.

The reservoir has become filled with sediment and is almost at capacity. During large storms and severe floods, the fast-moving flows of the Susquehanna River move sediment and attached nutrients over the dam and downstream into the Chesapeake Bay.

The Chesapeake Bay Program’s six watershed states (Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia), the District of Columbia and the Chesapeake Bay Commission agreed to develop a collaborative WIP that will include actions and commitments jurisdictions will take to best account for the additional pollutant loads.

EPA is funding three activities to fulfill the Chesapeake Bay Program’s commitment to address the Conowingo Dam infill:

  • An award to the Center for Watershed Protection to facilitate development and implementation of the Conowingo WIP and associated two-year milestones of progress.

  • An award to the Chesapeake Bay Trust to develop a comprehensive Conowingo WIP financing strategy and associated investment plan that will involve public, nonprofit and private funds to achieve the greatest level of pollutant reduction per dollar while maximizing economic development.

  • An award to the Chesapeake Conservancy to track, verify and report implementation of the Conowingo WIP and two-year milestones.

“These awards are part of EPA’s continuing financial and technical assistance to the states and the District of Columbia to help restore and protect the health of the Chesapeake Bay and local waters,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “The award recipients have the background and experience to help us meet the challenge posed by the additional pollutant loads stemming from the Conowingo Dam infill.”

“We appreciate EPA’s support of multi-state progress on the Conowingo watershed plan and congratulate the impressive awardees and their partners,” said Maryland Governor Larry Hogan. “We all benefit from innovative partnerships to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay.”

EPA Regional Administrator Cosmo Servidio said the financing strategy is expected to identify a variety of funding sources, which will help farmers and local governments in Pennsylvania and across the watershed implement clean water practices.

The watershed states and the District of Columbia each have developed their own WIPs to meet the pollutant reduction goals of the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (Bay TMDL).  The final Phase III WIPs were submitted to EPA on August 23 and are currently under review.

The Conowingo WIP is independent of these plans and is focused specifically on offsetting the additional load due to the Conowingo reservoir infill.  A Chesapeake Bay Program steering committee was formed to oversee development and implementation of the Conowingo WIP along with EPA.  A total of $200,000 of the awards funding comes from EPA’s Chesapeake Bay grants to the watershed states and the District.

The Chesapeake Bay Program estimates that an additional reduction of 6 million pounds of nitrogen and 0.26 million pounds of phosphorus is needed to mitigate the infill-related water quality impacts.

Quotes from the Grantees:

Center for Watershed Protection, Bryan Seipp, Project Manager:
“Addressing the increasing nutrient and sediment loads to the Chesapeake Bay as a result of Conowingo Dam reaching dynamic equilibrium is a complex and challenging task.  Like all watershed planning efforts success in reducing pollutant loading to streams, rivers, and the Chesapeake Bay will require innovative solutions, dedicated stakeholders, and consistent, open communication.”

Chesapeake Bay Trust, Jana Davis, Executive Director:
“The Chesapeake Bay Trust is excited to work with the University of Maryland and a large number of other partners on the incredibly challenging but rewarding financing component of this project.  We hope the ideas and financing mechanisms developed here will have wide application across the watershed."

Chesapeake Conservancy, Jeffrey Allenby, Director of Conservation Technology:
"We are excited to partner with some of the leading organizations in the watershed. We have a large challenge ahead, but more importantly a large opportunity to usher in the future of data driven restoration."