Last month, the Clean Chesapeake Coalition filed a formal "Motion to Intervene" in the Conowingo Hydroelectric Dam relicensing, according to a news release issued by attorney Charles "Chip" MacLeod.
The coalition represents the local governments of Allegany, Carroll, Caroline, Cecil, Dorchester, Frederick and Kent counties. Kent County Commissioner Ron Fithian, a former waterman, is the chairman, and the group has retained to law firm Funk & Bolton, of which MacLeod is a member, to represent it.
Exelon Corp.'s application for a renewed license to operate the dam for another four decades is pending before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which conducts an administrative review.
The motion is a tool for parties that might be affected by a decision to participate in the decision.
"The objective of the Coalition is to pursue improvement to water quality of the Chesapeake Bay in a prudent and fiscally responsible manner," MacLeod said in a statement.
According to the FERC publication "Hydropower Licensing - Get Involved," it is typical for parties to file as intervenors, and as long as their motion explains why they should be granted such status, they are able to participate.
"A person who intervenes in a Commission proceeding, known as a party to the proceeding ... is entitled to seek rehearing of a preliminary permit or license order and to appeal the Commission's final decision to the appropriate federal court," according to the FERC.
Intervenors are entitled applicant filings and other FERC documents, including materials from other intervenors, related to the project.
"The Commission's public notice of a preliminary permit application or a license application will set the deadline for filing motions to intervene in that proceeding," according to the FERC.
Once the motion is filed, there is no specific date by which the coalition will hear the results. In an email June 27, MacLeod said, "FERC is analogous to a court of law where there is generally no requirement to act on motions pending before it within a designated or specified period."
The 63-page motion sets out the counties' argument that Maryland has assigned them pollution reduction goals which are expensive, yet won't be effective if the siltation at the Conowingo Dam isn't also addressed.
According to the news release, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's 2010 Chesapeake Bay pollution diet "will fail without the dredging of the reservoir above the Conowingo Dam." The coalition states pollution reduction numbers are "predicated on the assumption" that the Conowingo Reservoir has trapped 55 percent of the sediment and other targeted pollutants from the Susquehanna River.
The filing states U.S. Geologic Survey scientists "have determined that the reservoir no longer traps close to the quantity of sediment and phosphorus assumed by EPA because the reservoir, which is 80 years old, has never been dredged or maintained."
The motion includes a 12-page affidavit from Fithian, detailing his experience on the upper Chesapeake Bay since he was a youngster.
"Unmanageable amounts of nutrients and sediments are being scoured from the Conowingo Reservoir and flushed into the upper Bay during storm events," said Fithian in the statement.
The motion and affidavit are available on the coalition's website, www.cleanchesapeakecoalition.com