Press Release

August 4, 2021
Cardin Secures Appropriations Committee Approval of $37.5 Million for Urgently Needed Rebuilding of James and Barren Islands

Senator delivers commitment to kick-start major project that will recover more than 2,000 acres of important island habitat


Project also ensures the maintenance of shipping channels in the Chesapeake Bay, supporting the growth and competitiveness of the Port of Baltimore

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Chair of the Environment and Public Works Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee, today announced a major victory for the health of the Chesapeake Bay and the economic vitality of the Port of Baltimore as he secured Senate Appropriations Committee approval of $37.5 million for the first year of construction for the Mid-Chesapeake Bay Island Ecosystem Restoration Project. The project, which will rebuild the fast-disappearing James and Barren islands in Dorchester County, will provide a significant expansion of habitat for a variety of fish and wildlife species through the beneficial use of material dredged to maintain the shipping channels for the Port of Baltimore. The project also will better protect local residents and shorelines from impacts of climate change, while improving navigational safety.

“This is a big day for the vitality of the Chesapeake Bay and the Port of Baltimore, as the Mid-Bay Island Project will mirror the approach, and ultimately the success, of the Poplar Island project,” said Senator Cardin. “The project will build the resiliency of Dorchester County communities, provide new habitats for a variety of fish and wildlife, support commerce at the Port, and enhance safety for boats and ships navigating the Bay. Having worked for years to make this vision a reality, I am heartened to announce that we are finally taking decisive steps toward giving the Mid-Bay Island Project what it needs to move forward in earnest.”  

A partnership between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Maryland Department of Transportation Maryland Port Administration, the Mid-Bay Island Project will build on the success of the transformational restoration effort at the Paul S. Sarbanes Ecosystem Restoration Effort at Poplar Island. Construction at Poplar Island is nearing completion and will soon reach full capacity as a result of more than $25 million in annual federal funding for dredging to maintain operations at the Port of Baltimore.

Senator Cardin secured the $37.5 million commitment through the annual appropriations process in the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill. It will provide ample funding for the entire first year of planned construction. It also moves the effort beyond the “new start” phase, where projects can languish and sometimes wither, meaning the commencement – and completion – of the Mid-Bay Island Project is now far more certain. 

“The restoration of the Chesapeake Bay is a national priority and a regional imperative, and the Mid-Bay Island Project is precisely the type of ecosystem-scale effort that will reinvigorate the effort to save the Bay. The project also will provide significant benefits to one of our state’s key economic engines in the Port of Baltimore,” said Senator Cardin. “Put simply, I am gratified to help move the Mid-Bay Islands Project off the drawing board and into the real world.”

The $37.5 million for the Mid-Bay Islands Project is the result of one of Senator Cardin’s FY 2022 Congressionally Directed Spending requests. It is the first such request to be included in Senate Appropriations Committee legislation. Following approval by the full Senate Appropriations Committee this morning, the legislation will move to consideration by the full Senate before being conferenced with the House of Representatives for final approval.