Pilot Dredging Project for Conowingo Dam

July 27, 2018
The Maryland Environmental Service (MES) reissued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a pilot dredging project in Conowingo reservoir, this time titled: “Conowingo Sediment Characterization and Innovative Reuse and Beneficial Use Pilot Project.” No explanation accompanied the official procurement notice as to why the project was being rebid but the Clean Chesapeake Coalition spoke with MES and gathered that the company that was initially selected, Northgate, was unable to develop a project that met the funding constraints. MES hopes that, with the addition of the sediment characterization piece, they will be able to identify a vendor that can begin to understand exactly what kind of material is behind the Dam, propose ways to safely remove it, and identify appropriate measures for re-using it and/or disposing of it.
Here is how MES describes the Project Scope (Project D: 1-18-3-21-8R):
The Maryland Environmental Service is issuing this RFP to propose solutions for reducing the nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment inputs to the Chesapeake Bay with viable innovative reuses or beneficial uses (IRBU) of the accumulated sediments within the Maryland portion of the Susquehanna River upstream of the Conowingo Dam. The proposed solutions can be demonstrated either through a sediment characterization study, a demonstration pilot project, or both.
The total cost of the Project is not to exceed $3 million.
Responses to the latest RFP are due November 13, 2018.

May 11, 2018
With all of the news surrounding the Maryland Department of the Environment’s (MDE) historic issuance of a Water Quality Certification (WQC) with special conditions to Exelon as a part of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) re-licensing process, the Clean Chesapeake Coalition (CCC) has been curious about the progress of the pilot dredging project initiated last year by Governor Hogan. This morning, CCC reached out to Maryland Environmental Service (MES) for an update. According to MES representative, Melissa Slatnick, the project is progressing through the permitting system. Ms. Slatnick was not able to provide a definitive timeline as there are facets of the process that are outside of MES influence. Here’s what we do know:

·        MES has submitted a permit for dredging application jointly to MDE and the US Army Corps of Engineers – some requested modifications have already been made;

·         Once the application has been approved, MDE will issue a public notice and allow a 30-day comment period;

·         A public meeting, tentatively to be scheduled the first week in June, 2018, will be held to invite feedback and answer questions about the permit;

·         No dredging can start until after June 30 to avoid adverse impacts on anadromous fish spawning.

Simultaneously with the permit application process, MES is currently working through the details of the funding agreement with MDE. In December of 2017, Northgate-Dutra was selected to undertake this project. However, without the funding “in the bank” so to speak, the outcome of that bid was simply declaring an intent to award. Until the contract is actually signed, we won’t get any details about the specific plans for what happens to the material recovered from the Conowingo reservoir, although we have been assured they do meet MDE’s standards for innovative and beneficial reuse.

Provided these concurrent applications continue to move through the system in a timely fashion, MES anticipates that dredging will begin sometime in late July or August of this year. MDE has dedicated a page on their website for information related to this project and will post the dredging permit application there once it is available for public comment. Other useful links on the page include an FAQ prepared by MES and information about past meetings related to this project.

The Clean Chesapeake Coalition has long advocated for dredging of the Conowingo “pond.” While most environmental groups have focused on reducing the quantity of harmful pollutants entering the Susquehanna River, CCC has been calling for a two-pronged approach. Clearly upstream practices affect the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed. There is no question that efforts to prevent agricultural runoff and waste materials from entering water above the dam are an important long-term strategy. However, these measures do not address the current and critical reality of the dam having reached dynamic equilibrium. It is full, and therefore no longer acts as a trap to prevent dangerous, uncontrolled quantities of phosphorous-infused silt pouring into the Upper Bay each time an extreme weather event precipitates scouring and the opening of spill gates. The CCC looks forward to following the progress of this pilot dredging project as we believe that the “Conowingo Factor” is an imminent threat, one that will have devastating consequences should we experience a 25- or 50-year storm event in the decades until improved runoff reduction efforts are in place in New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland.


December 28, 2017
MES announced that it awarded the pilot dredging project to Northgate-Dutra Joint Venture, a California-based company. Read more here.


November 10, 2017
MES RFP for Conowingo Pilot Project – Response Deadline Extended to December 8
MES has issued Addendum No. 6  to the “Conowingo Capacity Recovery & Innovative Reuse & Beneficial Use Pilot Project” RFP The addendum extends the deadline for proposals to December 8, 2017. Click one of the following links for the RFP or the Addendum.


November 6, 2017
MES RFP – Conowingo Pilot Dredging Project
In answer to questions and concerns from local (Harford and Cecil County) residents, MES responded with a letter to the Town of Port Deposit and additional details about the pilot project’s scope and impacts.

MES RFP for Conowingo Pilot Project – Addendum #5 Issued – Includes Core Sample Information
MES has issued Addendum No. 5  to the “Conowingo Capacity Recovery & Innovative Reuse & Beneficial Use Pilot Project” RFPThe addendum includes answers to more questions from potential offerors. It also includes the results from 24 core samples (2 samples each from 12 cores) taken from the pilot dredging site – in a report by Maryland Geological Survey titled “Coastal and Environmental Geology File Report No. 17-13: Conowingo Pond Dredging Secondary Site A Project: Coring Methodology and Results."


October 23, 2017

Town of Port Deposit - Conowingo Dam Pilot Dredging Proposal Potential Impact

Letter from Artesan Resources to Deputy Chief of Staff Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio


October 9, 2017
MES RFP for Conowingo Pilot Project – Addendum #3 Issued – Staging Area Identified
MES has issued Addendum No. 3 to the “Conowingo Capacity Recovery & Innovative Reuse & Beneficial Use Pilot Project” RFP. The addendum includes answers to questions from potential offerors and information about the proposed dredging area and staging area. RFP and Addenda below.


October 6, 2017
MES RFP for Conowingo Pilot Project – Addendum #2 Issued – Proposal Deadline Extended to November 7
MES has issued Addendum No. 2 to the “Conowingo Capacity Recovery & Innovative Reuse & Beneficial Use Pilot Project” RFP. The addendum includes answers to questions from potential offerors. 

Federal Hydropower Legislation (H.R. 3043)
Below is a copy of correspondence from Congressman Andy Harris to Cecil County regarding H.R. 3043 (Hydropower Policy Modernization Act of 2017 now pending in the House of Representatives).