Poplar Island

Poplar Island: Restoration, History, and the Port of Baltimore

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Last week, Congressional President Jon Pearlman and CFO Jon Kemezis were invited by the Port of Baltimore for a special, exclusive tour of Poplar Island in the Chesapeake Bay.

Poplar Island
Congressional President Jon Pearlman and CFO Jon Kemezis

Poplar Island is an ecosystem restoration project located in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay in Talbot County. It is funded 75% by the US Army Corps of Engineers and 25% by the MD Port Administration. The project began in the 1990s and is expected to be completed around 2044. The project uses dredged materials collected from the approach channels to the Baltimore Harbor. This dredging permits the large vessels carrying shipping containers to pass safely through the bay to the Port. With the dredged material, they restore remote island habitat within the mid-bay region. As the work is executed by the Maryland Environmental Service, great care is taken to ensure no harm to the surrounding environment.

Poplar Island
Map of the Island

Seeing the island is incredible, but understanding its history is even more so. The first official land survey of the island was conducted in 1847. In the 1800s, the island was home to a town named Valliant, which had a store, post office, school, and residences. By the 1900s, the island had reduced in size due to rising water levels. Over the years, it was owned by several private entities, including an exclusive men’s-only hunting and fishing club. Presidents Harry S. Truman and Franklin D. Roosevelt visited during this period. During the War of 1812, the British staged troops on Poplar Island before raiding ship-building towns like St. Michaels and Kent Island. Campbell’s Soup also owned the island for a short period.

Poplar Island
Ecosystem Restoration Project

While the public isn’t allowed on the island (except on tours like ours), many fishing boats frequent the area around the island, known as a prime spot to catch Rockfish, Bluefish, and the invasive Chesapeake Blue Catfish. Our industry heavily depends on the Port of Baltimore as the primary receiver of all frozen shipping containers from around the world. Once the project is complete, the dredged area of the bay will accommodate larger ships, allowing more containers to arrive in Baltimore. These vessels need depths of 50 ft or more to navigate.

Sediment enters the shipping channels annually, necessitating regular dredging to maintain clear pathways. The Port of Baltimore supports over 15,000 jobs for Maryland residents and generates more than $2.6 billion in business revenues. In essence, it’s a win-win for everyone! Witnessing an environmental ecosystem restoration like Poplar Island is truly special.

Poplar Island

We are grateful to the Port of Baltimore for an unforgettable day!