WASHINGTON – Congress approved millions of dollars to restore vital environmental spots in Maryland, including Ocean City, the Anacostia River and the Chesapeake Bay’s Poplar Island.
Restoration and maintenance of area waterways is included in the final version of a funding bill that is awaiting President Clinton’s signature after passing the House and Senate on Tuesday.
“Maryland made out pretty well given the budget constraints this year,” Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, R-Kent, said Friday.
The bill earmarks $25.6 million towards the restoration of Poplar Island in Talbot County.
Clean dredge material will be deposited within a newly constructed dike to restore the five-acre island to an 1,100-acre wildlife refuge — its 1847 size.
Before the massive erosion, the island was “great nesting habitat for colonial water birds,” according to Wayne Young of Maryland Environmental Service, a corporation that owns the island and provides environmental and technical service to the state.
The federal government also will spend $4.4 million on the restoration of wetlands and streams in the Anacostia River watershed in Montgomery County and on preparing plans for additional work on the river in Prince George’s County and Washington.
The project will create three areas of storm-water management wetlands near the Paint Branch arm of the river in the Burtonsville area.
The wetlands will serve as natural filters of runoff and are designed to improve the water quality of the Anacostia and eventually the Chesapeake Bay.
“The (federal government) is finally coming around to seeing how valuable wetlands are,” said Robert Boone, president of the Anacostia Watershed Society.
Ocean City beach improvements will receive $1.8 million as the Army Corps of Engineers will replenish areas of the beach lost to erosion.
Gilchrest expressed satisfaction with a $108,000 study of Ocean City, which was also included in the bill.
He said the study will look at the beach area in a comprehensive way, focusing on topics such as waste-water treatment and dredging.
Oyster populations in the Chesapeake Bay will be restored through the bill as well. Government and private efforts will receive $542,000 to increase oyster production and protection by creating hatcheries and oyster reefs.
Maryland also will receive $12 million to clear more than 126 miles of shipping channels leading up to the Port of Baltimore.
“We’re satisfied,” Gilchrest said. “We’ve been working pretty hard for what we’ve thought of as worthy projects.”