A Chesapeake Bay island restoration project for James Island and Barren Island is in the initial stages. The two islands are located in western Dorchester County

James island
James Island and Barren Island are located in Dorchester County, MD.

The aim of the project, which is a partnership between the Army Corps of Engineers and the Maryland Port Administration (MPA), is twofold: to restore the degraded islands while finding a beneficial use for dredged material from the Port of Baltimore.

Once restored, the islands will serve as better barriers, protecting the land to the east by reducing erosion from wind and water. Another anticipated benefit is that restoration of James Island will benefit Taylors Island, and restoration of Barren Island will benefit Hoopers Island.

The island habitat at both locations will expand to provide thousands of acres of wetland and terrestrial habitat for fish, shellfish, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and mammals.

It is estimated that in the last 150 years, 10,500 acres of this type of habitat have been lost in the middle-eastern portion of the Bay. This type of remote island habitat is especially valuable as resting and nesting sites for migratory and shore birds. 

This multi-year project, which had been under consideration for many years, is now in its early phases. It is expected that construction will begin on Barren Island in 2022 and on James Island in 2024.

The project will be similar to the restoration of Poplar Island in Talbot County, in which dredge material was used to rebuild the severely eroded island, restore wetlands, and create wildlife habitat. In addition to Poplar Island, Hart-Miller Islands have also served as sites for restoration using sediment dredged from shipping channels.