The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District, and several local, state and federal agencies have been partnering up to find a new placement site on the eastern shore of Maryland for material dredged from the Wicomico River.
After extensive research and evaluation, USACE and partners agreed on the Deal Island Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Somerset County to hold the material and also provide beneficial long-term environmental benefits.
The Wicomico River is an important tributary of the Chesapeake Bay. It serves many purposes for residents in Wicomico County and the rest of the eastern shore to include recreation, commerce and environmental habitat.
The Wicomico River is also home to the Port of Salisbury, which is the second-highest commercial port in Maryland. As a vital federal navigation channel, maintenance dredging is crucial for safe navigation of barge traffic passing through the river to ensure adequate fuel supplies for the Delmarva Peninsula.
“The Wicomico River serves as the water roadway providing critical fuel products up and down the Delmarva Peninsula, and it takes a lot of trucks off the road,” said Kevin Brennan, Baltimore District Navigation Section chief. “One barge can move the equivalent of 70 large semi trucks.”
Material dredged from this navigation project, comprised of mostly sand and silt, will be beneficially reused to restore approximately 72 acres of degraded wetlands on the Deal Island WMA, owned by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. The existing marsh will be raised to a target elevation of 1.5 feet to provide resiliency to the island and more efficient access for migratory birds.
The material will be dredged via a cutter suction dredge, moving directly from the dredge to the placement site through a pipeline.
Maintenance dredging of the southern end of the Wicomico River is anticipated to start by fall 2021 and be completed by mid-February 2022, to comply with time-of-year restrictions established by coordinating agencies. Vegetation planting on the Deal Island WMA is scheduled to be completed in summer 2023.
“We are excited about the opportunity to couple the execution of our navigation mission with this restoration endeavor,” said Danielle Szimanski, Baltimore District, Wicomico River project manager. “This project will contribute to protecting environmental habitat and expanding public access within the Chesapeake Bay watershed, while also continuing maintenance dredging to ensure vessels can continue safely carrying fuel, materials and agricultural supplies to and from Eastern Shore communities. It’s a win-win.”
The project will be closely monitored over the span of five years to track and ensure restoration success.