Conserving the Nature of America
Press Release
New Living Shoreline Completed in Maryland’s Eastern Shore
Project Will Protect Wetland Habitats and Communities from Erosion and Storm Impacts

June 27, 2016


Division of Public Affairs
External Affairs
Telephone: 703-358-2220

Smith Island, Fog Point, Glenn Martin National Wildlife Refuge, living shoreline, Maryland Eastern Shore, Hurricane Sandy

Aerial view of living shoreline at Fog Point, Glenn L. Martin National Wildlife Refuge. Credit: USFWS

Smith Island, Md. – Work is complete on a 21,000-foot living shoreline project on the Glenn L. Martin National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in Maryland’s Eastern Shore.  The project will slow shoreline erosion, protecting vital tidal wetlands as well as benefiting the communities of Smith Island. 

Work began on the living shoreline at the refuge’s Fog Point in July 2015. The project used a combination of rock breakwaters to slow wave energy and marsh restoration to help stabilize the shoreline and re-create wetlands lost to erosion. The final phase – replanting the marsh – ended this spring. Funding for the $9 million project came from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under the Hurricane Sandy Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013.

“This is an extremely important project for the refuge,” said Matt Whitbeck, a wildlife biologist with the Service’s Chesapeake Marshlands National Wildlife Refuge Complex.  “The shoreline was eroding at high rates, up to 10-15 feet per year in some areas.  This resulted in an annual loss of valuable habitat for fish and wildlife, and increased exposure of local communities to storm damage.  This project will protect habitat for fish and wildlife, maintain some level of protection for communities and protect commercial crabbing grounds.” 

In addition to protecting tidal wetlands, the living shoreline project will maintain shallow sheltered waters that sustain large populations of submerged aquatic vegetation, or SAV.  These sheltered coves and SAV are key areas for blue crab, as well as finfish and waterfowl.  Many of the local watermen work these coves for the soft crab fishery. 

“We work in the bay grasses and shoreline, and I believe it [the project] is going to help us tremendously,” said waterman Mark Kitching, a resident of Smith Island.

“The soft crab industry is really the economic heart of Smith Island,” said Whitbeck. “So the soft-crab sandwich that someone may be enjoying in Baltimore or Philadelphia could have come from some of these areas we’re protecting through this Hurricane Sandy project.”

Glenn L. 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. The refuge supports one of the largest concentrations of wintering waterfowl in the Chesapeake Bay, and provides important habitat for fisheries and non-game wildlife, including two of the larger and most diverse wading bird nesting colonies in the Bay.

To read more about the coastal restoration project, click here. To view photos of the project, click here. To view a video about the project and its impacts on the Smith Island community, 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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