Feds Allocate Taxpayer Dollars for Southern Maryland Waterways - Southern Maryland Headline News

Feds Allocate Taxpayer Dollars for Southern Maryland Waterways

Senators Paul S. Sarbanes (D-MD) and Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD) announced that the House and Senate have reached final agreement on the FY 2006 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill that includes millions of dollars in federal funding for navigational improvements to waterways as well as environmental and habitat restoration projects throughout Southern Maryland.

"The waterways of Southern Maryland are a vital part of the region's economy and quality of life," said Senator Sarbanes. "Funding for these projects represents a renewed and continuing commitment to protect and enhance these assets, bolster our economy, and further protect our environmental resources and heritage."

"This is a federal investment in the lives and livelihoods that depend on the waterways of Southern Maryland," said Senator Mikulski. "I am proud to work in the Senate with my colleague, Senator Sarbanes, to put money in the federal checkbook that creates jobs, builds communities and takes care of our environment."

The final agreement on the spending bill includes funding for the the following projects:

For the Chesapeake Bay:

* $13.4 million for the continuation of the Poplar Island environmental restoration project which is taking clean dredged materials from the shipping lanes leading to the Port of Baltimore and using it to stabilize the shoreline, create habitat areas and restore the wetlands of one of the Chesapeake Bay's most valuable island ecosystems;

* $2.25 million to continue efforts to increase the oyster population in the Chesapeake Bay by restoring oyster habitat, creating new reefs, and planting disease-free oysters on these reefs;

* $500,000 for submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) restoration techniques and technologies in the Chesapeake Bay. SAV or "sea grasses" are vital to marine and estuarine ecosystems, providing not only food and habitat for a wide variety of species, but also serving as sediment traps to help prevent shoreline erosion. In the Chesapeake Bay, the level of grasses in the bay has dropped to under 70,000 acres, about one-tenth of their historic level. At present most SAV planting projects are small in scale and labor-intensive. The funding is to be used for extensive research to improve restoration techniques as well as continue SAV restoration efforts;

* Funding of $2 million provided as part of the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Restoration and Protection Program. The money is given non-federal interests in the Chesapeake Bay for environmental restoration efforts. Funding of $273,000 is included in this amount for continued efforts by the Corps of Engineers to evaluate the risks and benefits of the introduction of non-native oysters into the waters of the Chesapeake Bay;

* $975,000 to continue the shoreline erosion study of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries by the Army Corps of Engineers. Shoreline erosion around the more than 7,000 miles of tidal shoreline amounts to approximately 4.7 million cubic yards of shoreline material being deposited into the Chesapeake Bay annually; and

* Funding of $500,000 to continue the Eastern Shore Waterways Study of potential beneficial use of dredged material projects similar to Poplar Island in the mid-Bay area.

For Southern Maryland Waterway Navigational Improvements:

* $850,000 for navigational and dredging improvements to St. Jerome Creek. The present availability of the channel is less than 50% causing many commercial fishermen to limit navigation to high water to sustain vessel damage. The project will aid several marinas that serve commercial watermen and recreational vessels. In addition, $200,000 was included in the bill for the Army Corps of Engineers to undertake a study to determine the feasibility of building a jetty or series of jetties at St. Jerome's Creek;

* $404,000 to construct an embankment along the Tall Timbers waterfront along Herring Creek;

* $630,000 for the Army Corps of Engineers to undertake a study to examine ways to restore lost beach and stabilize the shoreline along St. Mary's River adjacent to St. Mary's College. The area lost shoreline due to erosion from Hurricane Isabel in 2003; and

* $34,000 for the replacement of a deteriorating 1,250 foot bulkhead along Patuxent Beach Road in St. Mary's County.

The Senate and House must now pass the Conference Agreement before being sent to President Bush for his signature.

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