Susquehanna River Named #3 “Most Endangered”

Aprils 13, 2016

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(Washington, D.C) American Rivers named the Susquehanna River number three on its list of America’s Most Endangered Rivers® of 2016 today, shining a national spotlight on the impacts of Conowingo Dam and federal legislation that would take away Maryland’s authority to hold dam operators accountable for pollution and impacts to wildlife.

Conowingo Dam alters river flow, blocks fish and impacts water quality, harming the Susquehanna and the Chesapeake Bay downstream. The Exelon Corporation is seeking a new 46-year federal license to operate Conowingo. Provisions in the federal Clean Water Act give Maryland the authority to require Exelon to meet state water quality standards.

However, a bill pending in Congress, H.R. 8, would take away that authority to hold Exelon responsible for addressing its share of the problem, putting the Susquehanna River and the Chesapeake further at risk. The bill has passed the U.S. House of Representatives, and is now pending in the Senate.

“America’s Most Endangered Rivers is a call to action to save rivers that are at a tipping point,” said American Rivers President Bob Irvin. “We cannot let the hydropower industry avoid its responsibility for protecting the environment at the expense of our fish, wildlife, water quality and outdoor recreation. For the millions who depend on the river and for generations to come, we must act now to save the Susquehanna.”

American Rivers and its partners are calling on the U.S. Senate to vote against the bill and for President Obama to veto H.R. 8 if it reaches his desk. The legislation would not only exempt Exelon from meeting water quality standards, it would also transfer the responsibility for addressing the dam’s impacts to the bay’s municipalities, farmers and citizens.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, along with both of the state’s Senators and seven of its eight U.S. Representatives, has publicly opposed the bill.

“The Hogan Administration is putting a priority on the Conowingo Dam and the Susquehanna River to restore and protect the Chesapeake Bay so any effort to reduce Maryland’s important tools and incentives should be opposed,” said Maryland Department of the Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles. “Dilution isn’t the solution to pollution and it shouldn’t be the approach Congress takes to state’s rights under the Clean Water Act for dam certifications, either.”

“The Hogan administration—in collaboration with federal, state and local organizations—is working hard to enhance and restore the Chesapeake Bay, and we are making real progress,” added Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary Mark Belton. “The state is committed to addressing the potential environmental damage caused by the Conowingo Dam reaching capacity, and is partnering with the federal government and Exelon to address fish passage and water quality concerns as part of the relicensing process. We must evaluate and implement the most cost-effective and efficient strategies if we are to meet our Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement goals.”

The Susquehanna River is one of the longest rivers in America, flowing 464 miles from Cooperstown, New York to Havre De Grace, Maryland and draining more than 27,000 square miles (including roughly half of the state of Pennsylvania). The Susquehanna delivers more than half of the freshwater that flows into the Chesapeake Bay. The river provides drinking water for more than six million people and is one of the nation’s best smallmouth bass fisheries.

“There is no doubt that the Susquehanna River is an endangered river,” said Chesapeake Bay Foundation Vice President Kim Coble. “It is the largest source of fresh water to the Bay, as well as, the largest source of nitrogen pollution. This pollution feeds the algal blooms and dead zones that hurt aquatic life. The Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint requires all sources to reduce pollution, including Exelon.”

Since its construction in 1928, Conowingo Dam has trapped pollutants in its reservoir. Today, scientists warn that the reservoir is essentially full, and the dam’s long-term ability to trap pollutants is exhausted. During flood conditions caused by large storms, strong river currents can scour sediment from the reservoir, sending additional pollution into the river and downstream into the bay.

The annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers® report is a list of rivers at a crossroads, where key decisions in the coming months will determine the rivers’ fates. Rivers are chosen for the list based on the following criteria: 1) The magnitude of the threat, 2) A critical decision-point in the coming year and 3) The significance of the river to people and nature.

Over the years, the report has helped spur many successes including the removal of outdated dams, the protection of rivers with Wild and Scenic designations and the prevention of harmful development and pollution.

America’s Most Endangered Rivers® of 2016

Check out the full report »

#1: Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin
(Alabama, Florida, Georgia)
Threat: Outdated water management

#2: San Joaquin River
(California)
Threat: Outdated water management

#3: Susquehanna River
(Pennsylvania, Maryland)
Threat: Harmful dam operations

#4: Smith River
(Montana)
Threat: Mining

#5: Green-Duwamish River
(Washington)
Threat: Outdated water management

#6: Pee Dee River
(North Carolina)
Threat: Harmful dam operations

#7: Russell Fork River
(Kentucky, Virginia)
Threat: Mountaintop removal mining

#8: Merrimack River
(New Hampshire, Massachusetts)
Threat: Polluted runoff

#9: St. Lawrence River
(New York)
Threat: Harmful dam operations

#10: Pascagoula River
(Mississippi, Alabama)
Threat: New dams


About American Rivers

American Rivers protects wild rivers, restores damaged rivers, and conserves clean water for people and nature. Since 1973, American Rivers has protected and restored more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and an annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers® campaign. Headquartered in Washington, DC, American Rivers has offices across the country and more than 250,000 members, supporters, and volunteers.

Rivers connect us to each other, nature, and future generations. Find your connections at AmericanRivers.org, Facebook.com/AmericanRivers, and Twitter.com/AmericanRivers.