CHESTERTOWN - Continuing to voice his concerns over the Chesapeake Bay pollution diet and the Conowingo Dam, state Sen. E.J. Pipkin has written to two of the state's environmental secretaries demanding answers to his questions.
Earlier this month, Pipkin, R-36-Upper Shore, wrote to Natural Resources Secretary John Griffin and Secretary of the Environment Robert Summers inquiring about their respective departments' involvement with the bay watershed improvement plan and the dam.
While the letters are not identical, many of points were the same in each – namely that the model used by the Environmental Protection Agency used to set total maximum daily load numbers for pollution reduction is flawed.
“It does not account for a Conowingo reservoir with dangerously diminished capacity to contain sediment and nutrients,” wrote Pipkin to both secretaries.
In his letter to Griffin, he challenged the Chesapeake Bay Foundation for calling the Conowingo a “red herring” in questions about the TMDL model. He said data from a U.S. Geological Survey report shows that 39 percent of the sediment, 22 percent of phosphorus and 5 percent of nitrogen that flowed through the dam between October 2002 and September 2011 was caused by Tropical Storm Lee last year.
“The data leaves one certain conclusion. One major storm, like last year's Lee, has the ability to wipe out any advancements in the Bay's health,” Pipkin wrote.
Writing to Summers, Pipkin said he introduced a bill during the last General Assembly session that would have delayed any action to implement a watershed improvement plan as part of the TMDL program until a full study on the impact of opening of the Conowingo's floodgates during Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee was completed.
“The legislation would have allowed time to reevaluate the modeling to factor for the impact of large storms,” he wrote.
He said the Maryland Department of the Environment opposed the proposal, though he thinks the USGS study warrants such an assessment.
“Instead of supporting legislation that would have cautiously explored real impacts to the bay's health, MDE has recently advocate [sic] the implementation of other policies that will all be futile or even counterproductive if there is no remedy to the Susquehanna's pollution,” he wrote to Summers.
Pipkin asks for both departments “positions” regarding the Susquehanna River and the Conowingo Dam and whether both will participate in the relicensing process for the dam with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Namely, he wants to know if the two departments will demand the operators of the Conowingo restore and maintain the dam's reservoir to its original capacity.
He also asked if the two departments will request that the EPA reconsider its TMDL model for the bay to include “a Conowingo reservoir with diminished containment capacity.”