International Dredging Review

International Dredging Review

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Corps Baltimore District and the Maryland Port Administration (MPA) have signed a design agreement that allows for the next steps in restoring two severely degraded islands in the Chesapeake Bay.

The Mid-Chesapeake Bay Island Ecosystem Restoration Project is a partnership between the Corps and the MPA that focuses on restoring and expanding island habitat at James and Barren islands to provide thousands of acres of wetland and terrestrial habitat through the beneficial use of material dredged from Baltimore Harbor approach channels.

The recently signed design agreement formally allows for the team to begin the complex pre-construction engineering and design phase (PED) of this project, generally referred to as the Mid-Bay Island Project. The PED phase is the last major step before construction.

Over the past several decades, James and Barren islands in western Dorchester County have experienced significant erosion. The Mid-Bay Island Project will involve the restoration of these islands, while designing them to be able to accept clean material dredged from navigation channels. James Island will accept material from channels in the Maryland waters of the Chesapeake Bay used by ships going to and from the Port of Baltimore, and Barren Island will accept material from nearby shallow-draft channels.

At the larger James Island, the island’s boundaries will be reinforced to prevent erosion, and cells will be delineated within the island where dredged material will be placed over the years to rebuild the island.

The recommended plan includes environmental restoration projects to restore 2,144 acres of remote island habitat (2,072 acres at James Island and 72 acres at Barren Island). The James Island restoration includes a habitat distribution of 45 percent upland and 55 percent wetland. Barren Island will be restored to 100 percent wetland habitat.

James Island will be able to accept an estimated 90 to 95 million cubic yards of dredged material, which should provide at least 30 years of dredged material placement capacity for maintenance dredging associated with the Port of Baltimore.

The PED phase will begin right away, and the first of many construction projects will restore Barren Island and protect it from future erosion. That work is scheduled to begin in 2022 pending the availability of funds and would be followed two years later by construction of James Island.