From Our Daily Planet, a Terrific Source of Local Climate Change Stories — Today’s Mess

Our Daily Planet, a newsletter by Monica Medina and Miro Korenha, emailed a terrific report this morning about the trash and sediment coming down into the Chesapeake because of the recent heavy rains. Of course, the rains have increased in intensity partially because of higher temperatures which affect the amount of moisture that the air can hold.

Please sign up for their newsletter at to get the helpful photos and regular insight into what’s happening around you. This is today’s report (without the photos I’m afraid). Can’t just copy their stuff wholesale more than once so you Need to Sign Up (please).

Trash From Upstream States Pours Into Chesapeake Bay 

The recent storms and flooding have caused another problem for downstream states — trash and sediment,  The New York Times reports.  After a series of heavy rainstorms hit the northeast in late July, Exelon Corporation, the dam operator, opened more than 20 floodgates in the Conowingo Dam in northern Maryland to release additional water that had built up behind the dam, but that resulted in a “flood” of floating garbage and debris flowing from the upstream states down the Susquehanna River and right into the Chesapeake Bay.  Sediment buildup behind the dam had already reached capacity in 2016, according to a report by the federal government.  The pollution and heavy freshwater flows threaten the Bay’s oyster and crab populations, a significant economic driver for the region.

Local outlet Delmarva Now reports that the Susquehanna River is the largest tributary of the Bay and provides around 50 percent of its freshwater flow — 18 million gallons a minute. Now Maryland is suing Exelon and also taking a swing at upstream states, like Pennsylvania and New York, for not dealing with their pollution problems adequately.  Maryland is threatening to withhold Exelon’s permit to operate the dam, and the controversy has now landed in federal court.  “The upstream states, Pennsylvania and New York, need to step up and take responsibility for their sediment and their debris that is pouring into our bay,” Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland said. The Dam, however, has its benefits; “it provides “55% of the renewable energy in Maryland,” wrote Exelon in a statement in May.

Why This Matters:  Water pollution in the form of sediment and debris is another issue that will need to be addressed given the stronger storms we are beginning to experience as a result of climate change.  This problem goes beyond coastal storm surge to reach critical inland areas like the Chesapeake Bay, the nation’s largest and most economically productive estuary.  For years, the Conowingo Dam provided a benefit to the Bay by trapping much of the pollution from the river upstream, preventing it from harming water quality.  With the Chesapeake Bay starting to recover, thanks also to work with local farms to prevent runoff, this new source of pollution could be a huge environmental and economic setback for Maryland. Only cooperation with the upstream states will solve the problem — and usually, the federal government is needed to referee such disputes and help broker compromise. That sort of intervention is unlikely under the Trump Administration.

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