The remnants of the original Poplar Island consisted of clusters of low, marshy knolls and tidal mudflats. Using these remnants, engineers first constructed more than six miles of containment dikes using sand, rock and stone around the last remnants of Poplar Island. Within the dikes, clean dredged material is pumped in and allowed to properly drain to maximize the island’s placement capacity. Extensive engineering work goes into the habitat development and has significantly contributed to Chesapeake Bay restoration goals.
As the wetlands mature, they serve as a natural filter to improve water quality and a valuable habitat for birds, crabs, small fish and shellfish. Shortly after the first dredged material was placed on the island in 2001, ospreys, egrets, terns, herons, eagles, terrapins and other wildlife began to call the restored island home.
In 2007 Congress authorized Poplar Island to expand from its historic footprint of 1,140 acres to 1,715 aces in order to restore more island habitat and store more dredged material. Construction for the expansion began in 2016 and includes a lateral expansion of 575 acres to the north as well as the raising of the existing uplands to 25 feet. the expansion includes a 110-acre open water embayment with a depth of up to 12 feet.
The final project will contain about 68 million cubic yards of dredged material and will consist of approximately 776 acres of tidal wetlands, including low marsh and high marsh habitat, bird nesting island, and ponds; as well as approximately 829 acres of upland habitat.