Watch CBS News

Chesapeake Bay's Health At Risk After Trump Issues Executive Order Relaxing Clean Water Rules

CONOWINGO, Md. (WJZ) -- Before the Susquehanna River enters the Chesapeake Bay, the Conowingo Dam churns electric power from it. It's the kind of energy that falls under federal regulations.

With an executive order, President Trump is ordering states not to get in the way of energy infrastructure, by enforcing clean water rules.

According to Ben Grumbles, Maryland's Secretary of the Environment, the order is a "short-sighted, top-down order that tries to create a false choice between energy production and environmental protection."

The environmental protection from extremely heavy run-off, carrying millions of tons of sediment, which happened during last summer's record rains.

"Above the Conowingo Dam is a 14-mile reservoir, that for the last 90 years, has been filling with sediment that's contaminated with other pollutants." Charles Macleod, with the Clean Chesapeake Coalition, said.

Excellon owns the dam and has filed for a 48-year extension to continue operating, but Maryland blocked that until Excellon and the state figure out some way to remove the sediment.

"The sediment behind the dam continues to be a major, major threat to water quality and economic productivity in the river and the bay," Grumbles said.

It all but rose to the surface this spring, when heavier than usual amounts of sediment was cleared from shipping channels. What was unleashed wiped out some of the bay's clams and oysters, clogging marinas with debris.

The worry is what a major hurricane could do if Excellon is allowed a permit without a clean-up.

When the executive order hits the courts, Maryland expects the states to win.

"As the Supreme Court has firmly established, states have the rights, governors have the rights, to step up additional conditions and safeguards related to water quality," Grumbles said.

Follow @CBSBaltimore on Twitter and like WJZ-TV | CBS Baltimore on Facebook

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.