Intensifying downpours threatening America’s biggest estuary

CONOWINGO, Md. (AP) — For decades, the Conowingo Dam has trapped huge amounts of sediment and prevented it from polluting the Chesapeake Bay — but now there’s a huge stockpile of the stuff behind the dam’s high wall.

How big a threat this sediment poses to the Chesapeake Bay or whether anything can even be done about it depends on who you talk to. With Maryland pushing to curb pollution in dam discharges, the issue has become a political football as Conowingo’s operator seeks to renew its federal license to operate the dam for 46 more years after its old license expired.

And as negotiations drag on, the lack of agreement about curbing runoff pollutants following the wettest year on record imperils hard-won gains in restoring the Chesapeake Bay.

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