August 27, 2009

CARDIN ANNOUNCES ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS APPROVAL FOR MID-CHESAPEAKE BAY PROJECT

Dredged Material Will Be Used to Restore James & Barren Islands

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) today announced that the Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) has given a favorable rating to the Mid-Chesapeake Bay Island Ecosystem Restoration project, a major step in keeping the Port of Baltimore channel open and restoring two major islands in the Chesapeake Bay.  

 

On July 27, Senator Cardin accompanied Major General Robert L. Van Antwerp, commanding general for the Army Corps of Engineers, on a helicopter fly-over of the eroded James and Barren Islands and urged him to give his final approval to the proposed project.   Last week, General Van Antwerp gave his approval of the plan, a major step that will lead to the restoration of James and Barren Islands, resulting in more than 2,100 acres of island ecosystem restoration in Dorchester County, Maryland.

 

The Mid-Bay restoration effort will serve as a successor to the Poplar Island project, a joint venture between the ACE and the Port of Baltimore.   Clean dredge materials from the Baltimore shipping channels have been used to recreate Poplar Island, a historic Chesapeake Bay Island that had nearly vanished because of erosion.  

 

"This project is essential to the economic health of the Port of Baltimore and will lead to the reconstruction of islands in Dorchester County that are needed to help support the habitat and ecosystems of the Bay," said Senator Cardin, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and Chairman of the Water and Wildlife Subcommittee.   "Finding a site large enough to accommodate the dredge material from the Port's shipping channel has been an on-going problem and this project will address that while also helping to prevent further erosion on the mainland."

 

Last year, working with Maryland Senator Barbara A. Mikulski and other members of the congressional delegation, Senator Cardin secured $167,000 to begin preliminary planning for the massive project, which is expected to take 30 years to complete.   Earlier this year, Senator Cardin secured $483,000 for the Corps' feasibility study in the Senate funding bill for the fiscal year that starts on October 1.  

 

The Mid-Chesapeake Bay Island Ecosystem Restoration feasibility study will focus on restoring and expanding island habitat to provide hundreds of acres of wetland and terrestrial habitat for fish, shellfish, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and mammals through the beneficial use of dredged material.   This will provide indirect benefits of navigational safety, education, and passive recreation and perhaps, increased tourism.  

 

Congress must still approve the project, which Senator Cardin has strongly championed as a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee.   Congressional action authorizing the entire 30 year project is tentatively scheduled for next year. Having a favorable report from the ACE is generally required prior to receiving Congressional authorization.