WASHINGTON — An environmental project involving the restoration of James and Barren islands in Dorchester County just got the green light to launch its final stages — and with a double thumbs-up from U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen.
Cardin and Van Hollen, both D-Md., have backed many environmental efforts, including a recent agreement between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District and the Maryland Port Administration, which allows for the two islands’ final restoration design work to begin.
The project, known as the “Mid-Chesapeake Bay Island Ecosystem Restoration Project,” will use dredged material from Baltimore Harbor approach channels to re-create and rehabilitate more than 2,100 acres of the fast-eroding Dorchester islands’ habitats.
At a $9 million price tag, the Mid-Bay Island Project’s final phase is expected to take four years to complete, beginning with Barren Island in 2022 and James Island in 2024 — pending permit approvals.
Sixty-five percent of the project will be funded federally, and 35% will be funded at the state level, according to a press release by the Maryland Port Administration.
When the project is complete, James Island is expected to be able to accommodate an estimated 90 million to 95 million cubic yards of dredged sediment, which will sustain the lands for at least 30 years.
Gov. Larry Hogan stressed the project’s importance, not only for the environment, but also for Maryland’s economic success.
“In order to support the economic giant that is the Port of Baltimore, we need to continually dredge our shipping channels to accommodate the massive ships that are carrying more cargo than ever before,” Hogan said.
Hogan also said the Mid-Bay Island Project is crucial to stemming “the tide of erosion” from the two islands, as well as protecting Dorchester County residents from additional shoreline erosion.
The governor said the joint project shows “how we can work together effectively to benefit the economy and communities and preserve our Bay.”
Cardin, who is a senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said the project is “exactly the kind of investment our public agencies should make.”
“[It’s] a project that will take a major navigational hazard and turn it into a lasting asset that creates jobs, better protects Maryland communities and provides immense benefits for fish and wildlife,” he said. “I appreciate the efforts of every one of the partners who have worked together to reach this point.”
Cardin said he won’t stop advocating for the restoration of James and Barren islands until it’s a reality.
Van Hollen, a member of the Environment and Public Works and Appropriations Committees, said he’s “glad to see the Army Corps reach this agreement with our state partners.”
Van Hollen said he “will work to ensure this project remains on course” because “restoring the Mid-Chesapeake Bay Islands is crucial to the success of the Port of Baltimore and to preserving and protecting the Bay and its wildlife.”
The senators fought to ensure the Mid-Bay Island Project, among other initiatives, was included in recent infrastructure legislation.
Throughout the project, the senators will be in constant contact with Army Corps and state officials to ensure its success, according to a press release from Cardin’s office.
For more information about the Mid-Bay Island Project, visit http://www.nab.usace.army.mil/Mid-Bay.