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Corps of Engineers Reports Progress
on Smith Island Projects 

By Chris Parks

June 19, 2001
On June 12, officials from the United States Army corps of Engineers met with Smith Island residents to discuss erosion control projects planned for the island. Work is already underway at Tylerton, where a bulkhead is being constructed to protect the small community’s fragile shoreline. Daria Van Liew, project supervisor, reported that 400 feet of bulkhead is already in place, with the rest expected to be completed by October.

Plans are also underway to upgrade the sewage treatment plants on the island. According to Corps of Engineers officials, the aim is to improve the efficiency of the plants and reduce maintenance. At the Ewell/Rhodes Point plant, three waste holding tanks will be rehabilitated. Lagoons will be installed to enhance the treatment process. Lagoons will also be installed at the Tylerton plant, and two steel tanks will be replaced with fiberglass tanks.

Kevin Smith with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources announced an erosion control project for Ewell that will be funded by the Chesapeake Bay Trust. Two barrier islands will be constructed in the shallow waters near Pitchcroft to slow damage to the worn bulkhead there that has been partially washed away by wave action. Each barrier island will be 240 feet long and constructed of sandfill from local dredging projects. Stones will be used to shore up the island. Both islands will reach a height of approximate mean high water and be planted with marsh grasses for stability. Smith said the two main concerns were damage to existing submerged aquatic vegetation and whether the artificial islands would cause the spur channel running close to the shore to fill.

Some residents stated that replacing the old bulkhead would be preferable. Smith agreed but stated that there was no money for such an expensive project. The two barrier islands were funded as a demonstration project. Part of the purpose of the islands is for erosion control, but the islands are also expected to restore and preserve the local environment.

By far the largest proposed project is a breakwater system to protect the Martin Wildlife Refuge. According to Larry Mathena, one of the project supervisors, a series of stone breakwaters will be built beginning at the northern jetty at the western entrance to the island. The breakwater will run to Fogs Point, leaving Fog’s Point cove open. The breakwaters will also be placed in Kedges Straits and extend as far as Back Cove. The breakwater will be constructed in segments of 150 feet approximately 30 to 50 feet from the shoreline. There will be gaps in the breakwater of approximately 50 to 70 feet. This is being done to save, money, said Mathena. Overall the Martin Refuge project will cost $9 million.

A project of special concern to Rhodes Point residents is the construction of jetties at the entrance of Sheeps’s Pen Gut, which is the only channel feeding into the bay from that community. The channel is rarely used because of shoaling. Roland Bradshaw, a Rhodes Point waterman, told Corps of engineer officials that he must detour five miles through Ewell to access the bay. Corps officials hope the jetties will stabilize the channel. A stone breakwater will also be extended from the southern jetty 700 feet to tie into the collapsed geo tubes that were placed along the bay shoreline several years ago. Corps of Engineer officials admitted that the experiment with the geo tubes had failed.

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