BALTIMORE (AP) An island that has become popular among recreational boaters since it was created with the muck scooped from shipping channels will be landscaped to cater to another group of visitors, the birds that feast on its mud flats.
Dumping on the southern end of Hart-Miller Island stopped in 1990 after it was filled to capacity and has now moved to the island’s north end.
Since the dumping on the southern end stopped, the birds have “almost disappeared from this area,” said David F. Brinker, an ornithologist with the state Department of Natural Resources.
To lure back the 277 species of birds that scientists said ate worms and other creatures on the 300-acre southern end, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Maryland Port Administration announced a $5.4 million project yesterday.
The mud flats will be restored, a lake with an oyster-shell island will be created and upland grasses will be planted.
To re-create the mud flats, engineers will flood about 150 acres. An existing spillway will be used to drain the area during the spring and fall migrating seasons to create acres of mud flats.
It will be a “premiere shorebird habitat,” said Steve Kopecky, the Corps of Engineers’ project manager. The oyster-shell island is expected to be a prime habitat for terns, he said.
“They need an island to protect them from predators,” said Mr. Brinker, the state ornithologist. “We used to attract common terns here. But lately, we haven’t seen them north of the Bay Bridge.”
Among the birds found on the 2-mile-long island north of Baltimore in the Chesapeake Bay are ruddy turnstones, upland sandpipers and surf scooters.
The beach has become a magnet for pleasure boaters, who anchor, swim and party in the shallow water on the leeward side of the island even attracting one entrepreneur who began selling pit-beef sandwiches and pizza from a 30-foot pontoon boat. State and federal officials have spent $1.5 million to build rock breakwaters to protect the island from erosion.
Planning for the bird sanctuary is expected to be completed by March and the reflooding and creation of the mud flats in the spring of 2003.