Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, today secured the authorization for a host of federal projects to preserve and improve Maryland's unique environment and assist the Port of Baltimore. The projects, which will benefit communities across Maryland and increase efforts to restore the Chesapeake Bay, are included in the Water Resource Development Act of 2007 (WRDA), which passed in committee today.
Sen. Cardin will work with
Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD) in gaining final approval and funding of these Maryland projects when they go before the Appropriations Committee and full Senate in the coming weeks.
“In Maryland, we take a lot of pride in our environment,” said Sen. Cardin. “From the western mountains to the Eastern Shore and the Chesapeake Bay, our state is home to one of the nation's most unique and pristine environments. But in Maryland, our environment doesn't just provide us with nice scenery; it is also a major economic engine. Thousands of jobs in our state depend on our ecosystems and natural resources. It's important for everyone to realize that our environment is a gift, not an entitlement, and we need to protect it. I will continue to fight to make sure Maryland gets its fair share of federal dollars to protect and preserve our unique environment.”
Sen. Cardin successfully fought for the authorization of the following programs to be included in WRDA to protect and restore Maryland's unique environment [expanded descriptions below]:
- $30 million for Chesapeake Bay Environmental Restoration and Protection Program
- $50 million for Chesapeake Bay oyster restoration
- $192.1 million for the expansion of Poplar Island, off the coast of Talbot County
- $16.7 million for the Cumberland Flood Mitigation Project
- $9.4 million for the Smith Island Ecosystem Restoration Project
- Calls for a 10-year action plan for restoration of Anacostia River
Chesapeake Bay Environmental Restoration and Protection Program: The bill authorizes $30 million for the Army Corps of Engineers to assist state and local authorities in a variety of projects to help restore the Chesapeake Bay's water quality and living resources, including: sewage treatment plant upgrades, making beneficial use of dredged materials, removing impediments to fish passage, mitigating the impacts of shoreline erosion and restoring wetlands and oyster reefs.
Chesapeake Bay Oyster Restoration: Oyster populations in Maryland and Virginia are on the decline. WRDA increases funding for critical oyster restoration programs to $50 million. By restoring the physical oyster habitat, creating new oyster reefs and planting disease-free oysters on these reefs, the Army Corps of Engineers can increase oyster populations and ultimately help ensure the economic and environmental revival of the bay. Oysters are currently at just one percent of their historic abundance.
Expansion of Poplar Island: The bill authorizes $192.1 million for the expansion of Poplar Island, which sits off the coast of Talbot County, by 575 acres. This expansion was recommended by the Army Corps of Engineers in order to address the dredged material created by keeping the channels into the Port of Baltimore open in an economically and environmentally sound manner. The Poplar Island Restoration Project had been on track to create almost 200 acres of wetlands, and it serves as breeding habitat for Maryland terrapins. Because of natural and man-made canals, the shipping channels must be dredged regularly to keep traffic moving into and out of the Port of Baltimore, one of the largest ports on the East Coast.
Cumberland Flood Mitigation Project: The bill authorizes $16.7 million to continue the Cumberland Flood Mitigation Project, which provides for the restoration of a 1.2 mile section of the C & O Canal in Cumberland, MD. The project will restore the integrity of the historic canal and assist in revitalizing the area as a major hub for tourism and environmentally sound economic development. The Army Corps of Engineers investigated the feasibility of reconstructing and re-watering the turning basin and Canal near its terminus and determined that it is feasible to re-water the canal successfully without compromising the flood protection for the City of Cumberland.
Smith Island Ecosystem Restoration Project: The bill authorizes $9.4 million in federal funds for the Smith Island Ecosystem Restoration Project to stop or reverse the tremendous loss of underwater bay grasses around parts of Smith Island in Somerset County. An Army Corps of Engineers report found that severe erosion was causing numerous water resource problems at Smith Island, including: the loss of over 3,000 acres of valuable wetlands in the last 150 years, the loss of 2,400 acres of bay grasses between 1992 and 1998 alone, shoaling in the navigation channels, sedimentation, and endangerment to populated areas. The authorized funding would be used to construct off-shore segmented breakwaters and back-filling to create additional wetlands along the coastline of Martin National Wildlife Refuge in order to address these environmental concerns around parts of Smith Island. Bay grasses provide essential habitat for blue crabs and other species.
Anacostia River Restoration: The bill instructs the federal government, in coordination with the Mayor of Washington D.C., Governor of Maryland, and the county executives of Montgomery and Prince George's counties, to develop a 10-year action plan to provide restoration and protection of the Anacostia River and its tributaries. The Anacostia River is currently one of the most degraded rivers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and in the nation.