As part of the USDI Fish and Wildlife Service’s refuge system, Barren Island is an asset to the Chesapeake Bay and its inhabitants. It helps protect submerged vegetation, which in turn provides habitat for ﬁsh and shellﬁsh. Isolated from the mainland, it offers prime wintering, breeding, and nesting habitat for migratory waterfowl and birds, including brown pelicans. It also harbors threatened and endangered species including bald eagles, least terns, and black skimmers.
The island was severely eroded from a combination of high wave energy, rising sea levels, land submersion, ship wakes, and the natural ebb and ﬂ ow of barrier islands. In fact, it was eroding at the rate of 15 feet per year. Without the island, it’s likely that waves would eventually destroy the underwater vegetation and erode the shoreline of Southern Dorchester County, especially during storms.
The CORPS, NOAA, and FWS scientists were weighing restoration/ protection options when they realized that coupling habitat restoration with the ongoing need for places to dispose of clean, locally dredged material could facilitate restoration while resolving the challenge of disposal.