...is Slowly Reappearing
Story by Ken Burton, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
There was a time when pirates sailed past it. In the 1700s, it was a backdrop for Revolutionary War naval skirmishes. It once supported a small town, with cattle, a post office and a school. That was before Poplar Island, located in the Chesapeake Bay 34 miles south of Baltimore, began to disappear.
Today, Poplar Island is back, and better than ever: in the 1800s, it amounted to around 1,000 acres. By 1990, erosion had cut the island into three separate chunks of land and squeezed it to less than 10 acres. Today, thanks to a successful restoration effort led by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, it has returned to 1,140 acres and may grow by another 570 acres before the project is finished.
Using soil dredged from the Baltimore shipping channel, workers are steadily rebuilding the island and restoring its habitat. When work on Poplar Island is complete, half the acreage will be turned into wetlands and half, uplands – complete with trees. The island will be maze of smaller islands, ponds, channels and marshes. Some 40 million cubic yards of dredge material will be protected by 35,000 feet of containment dikes.
Jason Miller, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Chesapeake Bay Field Office in Annapolis (CBFO), is focusing on two parts of the newest version of Poplar Island: submerged aquatic vegetation and wildlife management.
Submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV), also called bay grass, supports a diverse community of fish, shellfish, invertebrates and waterfowl. Miller spends a lot of time monitoring the return of submerged vegetation in Poplar Island’s tiny new harbor. Many of the plants are returning on their own, while a partner group from Anne Arundel Community College has pitched in and helped with seeding, adding a bit of insurance.
Miller, who works in close partnership with the Corps,
When the Baltimore shipping channel is being dredged, barges operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to move 2 million yards of fill, from September through March of each year. The work began in 1998 and Scott Johnson, the man who manages the project for the Corps, estimates that work won’t be finished until 2020, at a total cost of about $400 million, with 75 percent of the cost borne by the Federal government and the remaining 25 percent, by the State of Maryland.
What’s new at Poplar Island ?
For more information:
Army Corps of Engineers Baltimore District