Muddy Run Park photo by Phil Snyder

Dam Removals to Improve River Water

June 6, 2014

PA Fish & Boat Commission to Receive $800,000 from Muddy Run Hydro Plant Certification

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) today said that the $800,000 it will receive as a result of a water quality certification of Exelon’s Muddy Run hydroelectric plant in Lancaster County will be used specifically to remove small dams within York and Lancaster counties.

The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced on June 3 that it had issued a 401 Water Quality Certification for the continued operation of Exelon’s hydroelectric project on the Susquehanna River in Martic and Drumore townships, Lancaster County. The company must renew its operating license with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) by the end of 2014. The DEP certification is part of the renewal application.

“Along with DEP, the PFBC and others have been negotiating with Exelon for several years leading up to the relicensing to ensure that fish and aquatic resources are protected,” said PFBC Executive Director John Arway. “We thank DEP for their years of hard work and leadership in developing a water quality certification which allows Exelon to continue to responsibly operate the Muddy Run facility. We also want to thank the Exelon Corporation for their cooperation in working with the resource agencies to get to this point.” 

“This certification and the anticipated FERC license renewal will provide protection, conservation and appropriate mitigation for American shad, American eels, and resident fish,” he added. “It also will lead to beneficial small dam removals on tributaries to the Susquehanna River and provide for water quality improvements in York and Lancaster counties.”

The PFBC estimates that there are several hundred dams in the two counties.

The agreement calls for Exelon to pay the PFBC $50,000 annually from 2014 to 2030, for a total of $800,000. Also, Exelon will pay $450,000 per year total to the Lancaster and York County conservation districts to help fund projects that will help Pennsylvania achieve commitments to protect the Chesapeake Bay.

Pennsylvania is a national leader in the removal of small dams, which hurt aquatic resources by blocking fish passage and by slowing the natural flow of rivers and creeks, which in turn creates stagnant, nutrient-deficient and oxygen-poor water. Removing the dams improves water quality, restores the ecosystem and results in a more robust fishery.

The DEP certification also provides for a plan to protect and improve the American eel population by trapping eels below the Conowingo Dam in Maryland and transporting them upstream annually to various locations in the Susquehanna watershed. It is anticipated that 1 million juvenile eels will be moved upstream per year. The plan remains in effect from 2014 until 2030.

“The effort to restore eels to the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania will provide ecological benefits not only to the eels themselves and the species that prey upon them, but also the eastern elliptio freshwater mussel, whose primary host is the American eel,” said Andy Shiels, PFBC Deputy Director of Operations.

“As eel numbers have declined in the Susquehanna River, so have the elliptio mussels, as they cannot reproduce successfully in the absence of eels which serve to transport the mussel larvae throughout the watershed.” 

Muddy Run, owned and operated by Exelon, is an existing 800 megawatt hydroelectric project located on the eastern shore of the Conowingo Pond on the Susquehanna River in Lancaster County. The project has operated since 1966.