Conserving the Nature of America
Press Release
Chesapeake Bay Project will Protect Smith Island Marshes and Buffer Against Future Storms

July 2, 2015

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Construction of a living shoreline made of more than 20,000 feet of sand rock structures begins this week along the Smith Island coastline at Glenn Martin National Wildlife Refuge in Maryland.

Construction of a living shoreline made of more than 20,000 feet of sand rock structures begins this week along the Smith Island coastline at Glenn Martin National Wildlife Refuge in Maryland. Credit: John Sauer/USFWS
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Smith Island, Md. – Residents living near Glenn Martin National Wildlife Refuge on Smith Island will benefit from a living shoreline project to protect marshes at Fog Point, a coastal section of the refuge in the Chesapeake Bay. This week, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service begins construction of more than 20,000 feet of protective sand and rock structures, which will help  reduce shoreline erosion, provide habitat for aquatic species and protect 1,200 acres of interior tidal high marsh against the effects of future storms. The living shoreline also will enhance the natural defenses of saltwater habitats important to the island's soft crab fishery, a natural resource upon which many local residents of Smith Island depend for their livelihoods.

Most of the living shoreline will be constructed from barges anchored immediately offshore with sand and rock material. Smaller barges with tugs will bring material closer to shore, and a shallow draft barge will hold an excavator that will build the structures. Nearly 9,000 feet of the shoreline will be protected by rock with sand placed behind it. 

“Typical structures are 250 feet long, then you add enough sand to connect the offshore breakwaters to the island itself,” said Matt Whitbeck, supervisory wildlife biologist for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Chesapeake Marshlands National Wildlife Refuge Complex. “In a high energy environment like the Glenn Martin Refuge, you have to have that fairly aggressive rock structure.” 

Whitbeck said land-based construction work is limited to two areas with small sandy roads, allowing the transport of materials by trucks and bulldozers. The project will be completed by next fall.

Funding for the project is a portion of the $102 million in federal emergency funding allocated to the Service following Hurricane Sandy to complete projects to restore coastal marshes, wetlands and shoreline, create open connections to rivers and streams for fish passage, and reduce the risk of flooding from future storms.
 
Glenn Martin National Wildlife Refuge, managed by the Chesapeake Marshlands National Wildlife Refuge Complex, covers 4,548 acres, including the northern half of Smith Island, 11 miles west of Crisfield, Maryland, and Watts Island, located between the eastern shore of Virginia and Tangier Island in lower Chesapeake Bay. It provides habitat for thousands of wintering waterfowl, as well as important habitat for soft shell crabs, fisheries and non-game wildlife.

To read more about the coastal restoration project, click here. To view photos of the project, click here. To learn more about other U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Hurricane Sandy recovery and resilience projects, visit the Hurricane Sandy Recovery website.

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The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.

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