At Glenn Martin National Wildlife Refuge in Smith Island, Maryland, construction of a 21,000 foot living shoreline consisting of protective sand and rock structures has been underway for three months in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay. This $9 million project, funded by the Hurricane Sandy Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013, will help protect nearly 9,000 feet of shoreline and nearby communities from the effects of intense storms and sea-level rise, reduce erosion, provide habitat for aquatic species and help protect 1,200 acres of interior tidal high marsh against future storms. The barriers will also enhance the natural defenses of saltwater habitats important to the island’s soft crab fishery, a resource which the local residents of Smith Island depend on for their livelihoods.
On a recent tour of the project site and surrounding islands during a clear day in August, several U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff hopped on a 30 minute boat ride from Crisfield, Maryland to survey the construction progress. Upon arrival, there were several barges in view, anchored immediately offshore holding sand and rock material. Smaller barges with tugs brought materials closer to shore, while a shallow draft barge held excavators that continued building the massive rock structures. Where the water was too shallow for barge access, articulated dump trucks moved rock and sand along the shoreline that were placed by excavators. Later that afternoon, the group spoke with local Smith Islanders who shared personal stories and expressed appreciation for the living shoreline project benefits that support their way of life as fishermen and crabbers.
“The project is coming along quickly. There are about 12-15 workers on site each day and two biotechs living on Smith Island to monitor work. We are 75% completed with placement of the rock and sand. This part of the project should be done by November 2015. We expect to plant wetland vegetation next Spring.” – Matt Whitbeck, supervisory wildlife biologist for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Chesapeake Marshlands National Wildlife Refuge Complex
More Photos (opens flickr website)