Scientists Complete Study on Conowingo Dam and Impact on Chesapeake Bay


Major storm events have short-term impact, but Bay remains resilient in the long run, scientists say.

University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science researchers have completed a study on the impact of Conowingo Dam on water quality in Chesapeake Bay. Scientists synthesized field observations, model results, and long-term monitoring data to better understand the potential impacts of nutrient pollution associated with sediment transported from behind the Dam to the Bay.

“This synthesis is important for bringing the best science to Bay management decisions by considering the entire Susquehanna-Conowingo-upper Bay system and integrating insights from several related studies,” said Peter Goodwin, president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. “Since most rivers around the world are dammed, understanding potential impacts to adjacent estuaries is highly relevant to international scientific and management communities.”

Dams initially starve downstream ecosystems of both sediments and particulate nutrients by trapping them in upstream reservoirs. Eventually, however, these reservoirs fill, increasing the delivery of sediment and nutrients to downstream ecosystems, especially during storm events when stored sediments can be scoured. Since its construction in 1928, Conowingo Dam has trapped most of the Susquehanna River watershed sediment and associated particulate nitrogen and phosphorus before they enter Chesapeake Bay. However, its storage capacity has significantly decreased, raising questions of potential impacts to Bay ecosystems.

Continue reading at University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

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