Poplar Island to continue receiving dredged sediment

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District completed construction of the Poplar Island Ecosystem Restoration Project lateral expansion Jan. 20, 2021, providing 575 additional acres, including four new wetland cells and one large upland cell.

The project is now able to accept dredged material associated with the approach channels to the Port of Baltimore until around 2032.

In 2007, Congress authorized an expansion of the project’s footprint to allow for more dredged material placement capacity and ecosystem restoration benefits.

It’s been 23 years since Poplar Island’s first containment cell was completed, and in 2017 construction of the expansion began. Since then, teams have worked diligently and efficiently on the expansion through the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, following CDC guidelines, and completing the work ahead of schedule.

This expansion adds a storage capacity of 28 million cubic yards, equivalent to approximately 54 Baltimore Trade Centers.

“The completion of the Poplar Island construction marks a significant milestone for the Army Corps. It is truly a win-win when we can make good use of the dredged material removed from our navigation channels,” said Baltimore District Commander Col. John Litz. “We’re proud of what we’ve built to maintain the health of the Chesapeake Bay watershed while keeping our navigation channels safe and driving the regional and national economies.”

“Poplar Island is an internationally-recognized environmental success story that will continue receiving dredged sediment for at least the next ten years,” said MDOT Maryland Port Administration Executive Director William P. Doyle. “We’re pleased to be moving forward on the preconstruction engineering and design of the Mid-Chesapeake Bay Island Ecosystem Restoration project. Both projects are major reasons why the Port of Baltimore can receive the largest ships in the world. The sediment dredged from the Chesapeake Bay and other channels allows ultra-large, Neo-Panamax vessels to call on Baltimore.”

In fiscal 2021, Baltimore District received an additional $382,000 in funding to complete preconstruction engineering and design work to restore James and Barren islands, totaling more than 2,000 acres, through the placement of dredged material.

This funding is through the 2021 Work Plan for the Army Civil Works Program, which is Congressionally-authorized funding specifically for the Corps in addition to funding outlined in the 2021 Administration’s Budget.

Once constructed, this project, known as the Mid-Chesapeake Bay Island Project, will replace Poplar Island as the primary site for the beneficial use of dredged material from the approach channels to the Port of Baltimore with the capacity to contain up to 95 million cubic yards of material over a span of at least 30 years.

This project represents a long-term strategy for providing viable placement alternatives that meet the Port of Baltimore’s dredging needs while maximizing the use of dredged materials as a beneficial resource.

Photo: David Gray/USACE