Low Water Could Damage Boats Near Conowingo

July 07, 1991|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff writer

Boaters using the Susquehanna River near the Conowingo Dam are beingcautioned to beware of unusually shallow waters.

The river's flowhas dropped to an all-time low for this time of year, say dam operators.

Philadelphia Electric Co., which operates the dam located betweennorthern Harford and Cecil counties, issued an advisory last week that water levels near area marinas and creeks might not be deep enoughfor boaters entering the river.

Bill Jones, spokesman for the electric company, said "There's no danger. It's really an inconvenience."

The electric company normally maintains the depth of the dam's pond -- the water area at the back of the dam -- at 106.5 feet. But the low water flow in the river has left the pond's depth at about 104 feet, Jones said. While that depth is fine for boating in the middle of the pond, boats could get stuck or scrapped by rocks near the edges of the pond where there may be only a few inches of water, Jones said.

The low levels already have caused some boating restrictions on Broad Creek, about five miles north of the dam, Jones said. In other parts of the Susquehanna, boaters might have difficulty navigating upriver because of the low flow, said Gary Diamond, a Forest Hill resident and sportsman who writes articles on area boating and fishing.

The low flow also could create problems for aquatic life as river water warms during the summer, Diamond said. With less water in the river, he said, there is less oxygen for fish, creating the potential for fish kills.

Jones said there hasn't been enough rain in the last two months to the maintain the flow of the river.

The Susquehanna watershed, according to PE statistics, received 3.59 inches of rain during May and June. That's more than four inches below the averagerainfall of 7.72 inches for the period, Jones noted.

It would take "several days of good, steady rain" in upriver areas to get the flow of water at the Conowingo Dam back to normal, Jones said.

BeforeThursday and Friday's rain, the river flow at the dam was 4,800 cubic feet per second and dropping daily. The rain increased the flow to 5,400 cubic feet per second -- still considered very low by dam operators.

In June, the average river flow at the dam was 8,000 cubic feet per second, the lowest June flow ever recorded at the 63-year-olddam, he said. The average June flow is 28,700 cubic feet per second.

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