Smith Island Dredging Plan Open for Public Comment

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is working alongside the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and Somerset County to make Smith Island more accessible by water. And today they released an environmental assessment of the project's impact, so the public has a chance to review and comment on it.

 Photo: Ben Fertig/IAN/UMCES

Photo: Ben Fertig/IAN/UMCES

The Army Corps of Engineers Baltimore District wants to realign a portion of the federal navigation channel in Sheep Pen Gut with hydraulic dredging, and construct two jetties to prevent shoaling in the channel. They would also create a stone sill along the shoreline to prevent further erosion.

The project's leaders say the project will be a huge help to Smith Island residents, and that the benefit far outweighs the relatively small environmental impact. 

“Effective navigation is the lifeline to the citizens and communities of Smith Island, and Maryland is dedicated to assuring safe passage along the waterways,” said Mark Belton, secretary of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. “This important federal, state and local project at Rhodes Point will bolster the crucial link between the mainland and Smith Island and provide for both greater protection from shoreline erosion and restoration of wetlands.”

The Army Corps of Engineers says, "Native vegetation will be planted on the placed dredged material behind the stone sill to restore or enhance about 5 acres of wetlands. In addition, approximately 10 acres of existing wetlands south of the federal channel behind the newly-restored acres will be protected."

The environmental assessment will be open for public comment for 15 days, until July 7.

The EA, along with other project information and maps, is housed on the project’s web page at www.nab.usace.army.mil/Missions/Civil-Works/cap/RhodesPoint/. In addition, physical copies are placed at Crisfield Public Library and Smith Island Cultural Center in Ewell.

Comments can be sent digitally to CENAB-CC@usace.army.mil. Comments will also be accepted via mail to the following address and must be postmarked by July 7, 2017:

Attn: Anna Compton, Planning Division

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District

10 South Howard St., Suite 11600-V

Baltimore, MD 21201

Comments on the EA will be considered, compiled and placed in an appendix within the final report.

If a contract is awarded, project construction and dredging would occur between November and April to meet environmental windows. The project would take roughly eight months to complete.

Megan Viviano