Rhodes Point on Smith Island Navigation Improvement Project

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District, along with partners the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and Somerset County, is working on a navigation improvement project at Rhodes Point on Smith Island. Secondary benefits of the project include protection of the shoreline from erosion and protection and restoration of wetlands in the area.   

This project is being implemented through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Continuing Authorities Program, Section 107, which is for navigation improvement projects. The project is cost shared 90 percent with federal money and 10 percent with non-federal money. It is funded through the Corps, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development. The funding through the Department of Housing came from a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Community Development Block Grant that stemmed from Hurricane Sandy. HUD gave the money to the Department of Housing, and the Department of Housing awarded the funding to Somerset County.
Sept. 29, 2017, Baltimore District awarded a contract to Coastal Design & Construction Inc., a small business out of Gloucester, Virginia. Project construction costs totaled approximately $8.58 million. Construction was completed on the jetties and stone sill in summer 2018. The entire project is anticipated to wrap up in 2019. 



Smith Island is approximately 8 miles west of Crisfield, Maryland, in the Chesapeake Bay. Smith Island consists of several smaller islands separated by shallow tidal creeks or channels called “guts”. Smith Island is sparsely populated and has three small residential fishing communities: Rhodes Point, Ewell, and Tylerton, all accessible only by boat. 

The local area currently supports a fleet of commercial fishing vessels engaged in the harvesting of crabs, oysters, clams and some finfish. The residents of Smith Island depend on waterborne transportation for goods and services including delivery of critical supplies, and for access to schools. The local fleet also supports tourism and the economy. 

What's the Problem?

The communities on Smith Island rely entirely on the channel not just for the delivery of critical goods and services and transportation to schools, but how they support their livelihoods and contribute to the economy. Severe erosion and shoaling in the channel have caused watermen to have to take inconvenient routes around Smith Island to access deeper portions of the Bay, leading to lost time and increased fuel costs. Wetlands on Smith Island are also being lost to erosion. 

What's the Project?

Project components include realignment of a portion of the federal navigation channel in Sheep Pen Gut through dredging; construction of two jetties to prevent shoaling in the channel and to reduce the continual need for dredging of material; and creation of a stone sill along the shoreline to prevent  further erosion and contain the dredged material from the project. 


This project increases navigational clearance, so boaters don’t run aground due to the shoaling in the area, and it provides boaters from the Smith Island towns of Rhodes Point and Tylerton with more direct access to the Chesapeake Bay. The navigation improvements are anticipated to have long-term beneficial impacts to the local economy, navigation, recreational boaters and safety.


Secondary benefits from the project include shoreline protection and restoration. Native vegetation will be planted on the placed dredged material in spring/summer 2019 to restore and 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. This will aid the protection of the larger wetland system and provide habitat for local animals and vegetative resources. 


* Click to enlarge images below on the project plan and the dredged material placement plan.  


Project Details: 


  • The federal channel at the mouth of Sheep Pen Gut was dredged to its authorized level, providing 6 feet of navigational clearance. Dredging wrapped up in November 2018. 
  • The realignment extends the existing authorized channel by approximately 425 feet northwestward, facilitating better access to the Bay. The federal channel is now 1,900 feet long in total, extending from within the mouth of Sheep Pen Gut into the Chesapeake Bay. The channel is approximately 50 feet wide from the mouth of Sheep Pen Gut toward the Bay for 1,750 feet. The last 150 feet into the Bay is approximately 100 feet wide.
  • The north and south jetties are approximately 650 feet and 1,150 feet long, respectively. Both are about 50 feet wide at their bases and 6 feet wide at their crests. Construction of the jetties was completed in summer 2018. 
  • The stone sill was constructed along 850 feet of eroding shoreline south of the mouth of Sheep Pen Gut. It is 30 feet wide at its base and built to an elevation of 3 feet Mean Lower Low Water. The sill design includes windows or "notches" to allow for interaction between the tide and marsh. Sill construction was completed in summer 2018. 
  • Approximately 24,000 cubic yards of clean dredged material from the project, consisting primarily of sand and silt, was placed behind the stone sill to restore wetlands and increase shoreline resiliency.
  • Planting on the dredged material will occur in spring/summer 2019.