The restoration of Skimmer Island, that crescent-shaped spit of land north of the Route 50 Bridge that many never knew had an official name until this year, is a project that deserved some attention, and it got just that this week.
The intent of this worthwhile rebuilding project may have gotten lost a bit this week in the hoopla of U.S. Senator Ben Cardin’s boat ride and Gov. Martin O’Malley kayaking excursions, along with other officials, to the island. These are scripted events coordinated with the media in mind, and we are usually more than willing to eat it up and give it big play. Hence, this week’s front page photos.
Although it was nice to give the project some media spotlight outside the immediate area this week, the value of this local project and the unique partnership that made it possible is important to keep in mind.
Back in April, a multi-partner effort was launched to dredge the entrance of the navigation channel to the Ocean City Fishing Center and pump that material onto Skimmer Island. This work addressed the natural processes that routinely fill this entrance to the marina, as is the case with most in the area, and it helped build up Skimmer Island, which had been deteriorating as a result of natural erosion.
Skimmer Island is important to the local ecosystem because, most notably, it serves as a temporary home and nesting place for several species of colonial nesting birds, such as the Black Skimmer and Royal Tern. Officials in the know widely acknowledge the island is the most critical nesting area in the entire states for these shorebirds, and the island’s presence and health could help reverse serious declines in the local population of the Black Skimmer and Royal Tern.
When Skimmer Island was first surveyed in 1998, it measured 7.1 acres. In 2003, it had been reduced to 5.6 acres, and in 2007, it was down to just 3.9 acres, or roughly half the size it was a decade earlier. In a survey conducted last year, Skimmer Island was down to just 2.7 acres. The surveys confirmed that if left unaddressed the island was going to disappear eventually and just become another huge sandbar in the coastal bays watershed.
It’s unknown at this point whether this renourishment will be a one-time project or whether it will be done on a routine basis whenever local marinas or even the Inlet require dredging.
While funding is always the unknown, it makes sense to us to at least consider projects like this in the future that help local habitat while addressing commercial needs on a routine basis.