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DEP issues water quality certificate to Muddy Run hydroelectric project

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The state Department of Environmental Protection has approved the continued operation of Exelon's Muddy Run hydroelectric project in Martic and Drumore townships, Lancaster County, after the company agreed to a host of conditions.

DEP issued a water quality certification for the continued operation and maintenance of the facility, an 800-megawatt hydroelectric project on the eastern shore of Conowingo Pond on the Susquehanna River, according to a news release. The primary transmission line corridor for the project is in Lancaster County and in Lower Chanceford and Peach Bottom townships in York County, according to the company. The project has operated since 1966.

Pennsylvania water quality certification is required for relicensing by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for projects like the Muddy Run Project under the Federal Power Act. Water quality certifications are authorized under the Federal Clean Water Act, the Pennsylvania Dam Safety and Encroachments Act and the Pennsylvania Clean Streams Law, according to DEP.

Exelon formally filed to relicense Muddy Run with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in August 2012, but the process started with a notification to file in March 2009, according to the company.

The relicensing does not include any expansion of the project, according to the company.

“DEP has determined that the Muddy Run Project is continuing to meet all applicable state regulations and water quality standards,” DEP Secretary E. Christopher Abruzzo said. “Exelon has agreed to make substantial commitments to mitigating the aquatic resource impacts of the project and we appreciate the cooperative approach that Exelon brought to the table in development of this water quality certification.”

According to DEP, those commitments include:

• Implementing a program to trap about 1 million American eels per year from below the Conowingo Dam in Maryland and in Octoraro Creek and transport them to multiple locations in the Susquehanna watershed;

• Providing $500,000 per year for 16 years for agricultural pasture and barnyard best management practices to address sediment introduction and other habitat improvement projects, such as stream improvement projects, vegetation buffers and small dam removal in Lancaster and York counties;

• Providing a version of Exelon’s computer model for evaluating river flows on the Lower Susquehanna River to the Susquehanna River Basin Commission;

• Achieving certain fish passage targets for migratory fish and eels passing through the project area and taking corrective action if the fish passage targets are not achieved;

• Conducting dissolved oxygen testing and endangered species evaluation.

“Conditions are an expected part of the licensing process, and Exelon will continue to work with our state and federal partners to improve the overall health of the Susquehanna River watershed,” said Exelon spokesman Bob Judge.

The financial impact to Exelon over the life of the license is $20 million to $30 million, he said.

Exelon, which also owns Three Mile Island, is the parent company of electric and gas utility PECO, which serves part of York County. The company is merging with Pepco Holdings Inc.

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