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Exelon Generation, state of Maryland reach agreement on Chesapeake Bay restoration

Conowingo Hydropower Plant

Exelon Generation has reached a settlement agreement with the state of Maryland that will protect the long-term health of the Chesapeake Bay and preserve Maryland’s largest source of renewable energy, the 572-MW Conowingo hydroelectric plant.

Exelon says the benefits to Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay are valued at more than $200 million over the anticipated 50-year life of the license, which will be funded from the hydro plant’s earnings over that time period.

The agreement, which must be approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, provides for significant contributions to protect and enhance the health of the bay. The agreement will also provide for the continued production of carbon-free energy from the powerhouse, which is vital to support Governor Larry Hogan’s Clean and Renewable Energy Standard of 100% clean electricity by 2040, as well as deliver economic, recreational, tourism and community benefits. Exelon says the agreement resolves all outstanding issues arising from the Maryland Department of the Environment water quality certificate.

“Exelon Generation and the State of Maryland share a commitment to restoring and sustaining the health of the Chesapeake Bay, which has been strengthened by this agreement,” said Chris Crane, president and chief executive officer of Exelon. “This is a victory for clean energy and the long-term preservation of the Chesapeake Bay. The agreement is designed to substantially improve water quality while ensuring Maryland’s largest source of renewable energy continues to deliver environmental and economic benefits for the next generation.”

The project powers about 165,000 homes in the region. It also provides tremendous economic benefits, generating $273 million in economic activity and supporting 265 full-time equivalent jobs. The recreational resources associated with the dam receive 365,000 visits per year, contributing to Cecil and Harford counties’ 2018 tourism tax revenue of $21.7 million.

Highlights of the agreement include:

•A contribution of Exelon lands and more than $25 million to support the construction, operations and maintenance of a mussel hatchery. When stocked into the Susquehanna River, these mussels will filter nutrients and sediment before they reach the bay.

•More than $19 million of funding support for Maryland to invest in water quality improvement projects, including forest buffers and cover crops to reduce nutrient pollution.

•More than $12 million to Maryland to support staff resources for oversight and protection of the Chesapeake Bay.

•$5 million for chlorophyll A monitoring and reporting.

•$500,000 to fund a feasibility study of dredge material disposal options in and around the Conowingo pond.

•Continued commitments valued at $41 million to address debris accumulation, including an engineering study examining methods to divert debris before it reaches the dam, and use of clamming, skimming or other equally effective means of debris removal.

•$11 million of improvements to eel passage that will help facilitate mussel restoration with its benefits to nutrient reductions, plus a contribution of $1 million to fund eel passage research.

•More than $47 million for climate resiliency projects, including submerged aquatic vegetation, aquaculture, clam and oyster restoration projects, and living shoreline creation to help make the Susquehanna River and Chesapeake Bay more resilient to severe weather events. 

•Modifications to river flow valued at $52 million to enhance habitat for aquatic species like American shad and river herring, that reside downstream of the dam, and submerged aquatic vegetation, which trap sediment, remove pollution and serve as a vital habitat to spawning and rearing fish.