The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District, in collaboration with Maryland Department of Natural Resources and Somerset County, has just released an environmental assessment (EA) for a navigation improvement project at Rhodes Point for a 15-day public comment.
USACE proposes to realign a portion of the federal navigation channel in Sheep Pen Gut through hydraulic dredging; construct two jetties to prevent shoaling in the channel and to reduce the continual need for dredging; and create a stone sill along the shoreline to prevent further erosion and contain the clean dredged material from the project.
The construction contract is anticipated for award in late summer/early fall, if all necessary requirements are met.
“People living on Smith Island rely on channels for transportation to schools and the delivery of critical goods and services; the water supports their livelihoods,” said Col. Ed Chamberlayne, Baltimore District commander. “Severe erosion and shoaling have caused watermen to have to take inconvenient routes around Smith Island, increasing travel time and fuel costs.”
While the project’s primary purpose is for navigation improvement, the project area will also benefit from wetland restoration and protection.
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 proposed jetty project and a nearly-completed shoreline stabilization project will not only benefit all residents, including those living and working in Rhodes Point, Ewell and Tylerton, but also all of Somerset County, as we strive to preserve the island and its unique way of life for generations to come,” said Randy Laird, Somerset County Commissioners president.
The Corps Baltimore District will be accepting comments on the draft EA until July 7.