By Brian Gilliland, Associate Editor
(June 28, 2018) A state park, a town and the county that contains them all received competitive Maryland Department of Natural Resources grants to improve their resiliency in the face of climate change impacts being felt in the area right now.
At Assateague Island State Park, the DNR has begun a project to reduce shoreline erosion on the west side of the Verrazano Bridge, near the boat ramp and fishing pier.
A series of 10 small peninsulas built from boulders, cobble and clean sand and planted with native flora, are to be built to help dissipate wave energy from large storms.
“Once complete, this interagency project will strengthen the park’s capacity to deal with current and future risks and help educate the public on this new, proven approach to shoreline protection and strengthening,” Mark Belton, DNR secretary, said in a release.
While the boat ramp, parking lot, restrooms and fishing pier are expected to remain open to the public during construction, the field area near the shoreline and some offshore areas might be closed.
Equipment and supplies are expected to be staged on park grounds during the construction, and signs may be posted to advise the public of changing conditions.
This project is expected to be complete by the end of summer.
A bit farther south than Assateague State Park, the DNR also approved a competitive grant for a similar plan off the coast of the Chincoteague Bay near Girdletree and Stockton. The project’s goals are similar: to establish a climate resiliency program on Tizzard Island, a privately owned piece of land in southern Worcester.
Tizzard Island is one of a network of small offshore islands in the Johnson Bay that act as a buffer for the larger barrier island behind it.
The goals of this grant are similar to that of the Assateague Island program, to reduce erosion during storm surges, but the methodology is different.
“We’re using it as a pilot project to determine how to do the other islands,” Steve Farr of the Maryland Coastal Bays Program said. “The goal is to protect the habitat on the island.”
Farr said another objective is to come up with a host of options for the island, which contains shorefront and wetland ecosystems, narrow the list, implement the selected policies and measure the results.
The town of Berlin also got a competitive DNR grant, but it’s even more conceptual.
Municipalities and counties within Maryland are required to have comprehensive plans, and are required to update them every decade. Berlin’s plan review comes due in 2020, but ahead of that Town Administrator Laura Allen said a climate resiliency section would need to be added.
“The intent of the funding is to develop, produce and talk about climate change impacts on Berlin,” Allen said.
Allen said she’s working with Salisbury University, the University of Maryland and other such entities to develop and refine what will ultimately end up in the plan, but at this stage the town just needs to get talking.
“Maryland has a list of climate change impacts and what we include depends on data and the community,” she said.
Stormwater runoff, for example, is something Allen said would probably end up in the comprehensive plan, but there could also be others.
Whatever those project headings will be, they will be decided rather quickly, she said. “There’s a short turnaround. They’re looking for ideas by Sept. 1 and a draft by the end of March.”