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Poplar Island Project by the Corps

Posted on September 16, 2021

Poplar Island Overview

Poplar Island, recently on the verge of disappearing, is today a national model for habitat restoration and the beneficial use of dredged material. Just off the Chesapeake Bay coastline, about 34 miles south of Baltimore in Talbot County, Md., Poplar Island is being returned to its former size and important ecological function while helping to ensure the economic vitality of the region.

Working in partnership with the Maryland Department of Transportation Maryland Port Administration and other Federal and State agencies, the Corps of Engineers are currently restoring Poplar Island by using dredged material from the Baltimore Harbor and Channels Federal navigation projects. Approximately 68 million cubic yards of dredged material will be placed to develop 776 acres of wetlands, 829 acres of uplands and 110 acres of open water embayment.

Project Information

In 1846, Poplar Island boasted more than 1,000 acres. During the early 1900’s the island supported a thriving community of about 100 inhabitants, several farms, a school, a church, a post office and a saw mill. By the 1920’s, residents began leaving the island as more and more of its landmass fell victim to erosion. By the early 1990’s, all that remained were several small clusters of islets rising just above the surface of the water. Reduced to about four acres, Poplar Island’s disappearance seemed imminent.


Monitoring of the environment in and around Poplar Island is an integral component of the project. Detailed and regularly scheduled monitoring is essential to ensure success of the project, to identify changes in the environment surrounding the island, and to determine if ongoing operations need to be adjusted. Monitoring also document improvements as the project progresses, such as increases in vegetation cover and wildlife usage.

Several different types of environmental assessment and monitoring studies have been conducted and/or are ongoing at Poplar Island. These include baseline studies during pre-construction and pre-placement which will be compared to future data to assist with identification of changes to the environment. Additionally, operations monitoring encompasses all the monitoring that occurs during dredged material placement and dewatering. And as new habitats, such as uplands and wetlands, are created, the plants and animals within the habitats are monitored to determine how well the habitats are functioning.

Wildlife Resources

The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the United States, and is a complex ecosystem that encompasses a wide range of habitats that support more than 3,600 species of plants, fish, and animals. The Bay is also a very productive habitat, producing over 500 million pounds of harvested seafood each year. Some Bay habitats, particularly shorelines and submerged aquatic vegetation, are in critical need of restoration. Five different habitat types are being created at Poplar Island. Not only will these habitats support a diverse assemblage of plants and animals, but some of the habitat types to be created include those that are most sorely needed in the Bay.

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