Plans to restore two vanishing Chesapeake Bay islands are on firmer ground now. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has allocated $37.5 million for the upcoming year to launch the reconstruction of the James and Barren islands in Maryland.

James Island was still somewhat intact in this photo from 1999. Erosion has broken it into three small islands since then and it’s disappearing at a great rate. Dave Harp Credit: Dave Harp / Bay Journal Media

Maryland Sen. Ben  Cardin had previously succeeded in including that amount for the islands’ restoration in the fiscal year 2022 spending legislation, but Congress has yet to approve a budget. The Corps allocation, included in its supplemental work plan, improves prospects for the long-planned $1.9 billion project, advocates say. The Corps tends to keep funding such work once it begins.

The Mid-Chesapeake Bay Island Ecosystem Restoration project aims to create 2,100 acres of new wildlife habitat on the two islands and help protect shorelines in Dorchester County from erosion and storm surges.  

The project also aids the Port of Baltimore because the islands are to be restored using sand and silt dredged from shipping channels in the Bay. Dredged material has been used to rebuild Poplar Island, another Bay island that had nearly washed away. The Mid-Bay project is expected to begin by the time the Poplar restoration is completed in 2032.

Initial restoration around Barren Island is expected to begin in September, while the more extensive work at James Island is projected to start in 2024. 

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Tim Wheeler is the Bay Journal's associate editor and senior writer, based in Maryland. You can reach him at 410-409-3469 or

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