By BEN GILES
Capital News Service/Maryland Newsline
SMITH ISLAND – A $17.5 million Smith Island environmental restoration project has been approved but not yet fully funded.
The project, approved in 2007 as a part of the Water Resources Development Act, is awaiting funds from non-federal sources, according to a document from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“It’s a matter of priorities,” said Jordan Loran, director of engineering and construction for the state Department of Natural Resources.
The comprehensive project, for which the Corps partnered with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, would restore submerged vegetation and construct bulkheads off the shore of the nearby Martin Wildlife Refuge, just north of Smith Island.
The Corps suggests that protecting the refuge could help reverse the trend of tremendous loss of aquatic vegetation around the refuge and Smith Island, as well as reduce erosion in the region.
The Corps is also awaiting funds for a new wastewater treatment plant for the towns of Ewell and Rhodes Point. And it needs approval for a dredge and jetty project in Sheep Pen Gut, which connects Rhodes Point to the Chesapeake Bay.