The Senate Appropriations Committee has signed off on $37.5 million in spending that could launch the reconstruction of James and Barren islands in the Chesapeake Bay.

James Island MD in 1999

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.

The Aug. 4 approval sets up a vote before the full Senate. The legislation will then undergo negotiations between the House and Senate to merge their differing versions of the measure, which is part of the $53 billion Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill.

The current House bill does not include the James and Barren funding.

The $1.9 billion undertaking, called the Mid-Chesapeake Bay Island Ecosystem Restoration, will rebuild two eroding islands off the coast of Dorchester County, MD. In all, it will create more than 2,100 acres of new land.

The fill will be dredged from the shipping channels for the Port of Baltimore, keeping the lanes open for cargo traffic.

The funding would cover the first year of planned construction. Critically, the move transfers the effort off the “new start” phase, where projects can languish for years, said Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland.

“The project will build the resiliency of Dorchester County communities, provide new habitats for a variety of fish and wildlife, support commerce at the port and enhance safety for boats and ships navigating the Bay,” Cardin said. “Having worked for years to make this vision a reality, I am heartened to announce that we are finally taking decisive steps toward giving the Mid-Bay Island Project what it needs to move forward in earnest.”  

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