- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 4, 2004

OCEAN CITY — Maryland officials are asking the Army Corps of Engineers for help in restoring shoreline lost to Tropical Storm Isabel, estimating that it will cost $85 million to stabilize soil still melting away with Chesapeake Bay tides.

The counties on the western shore of the Bay took the worst of Isabel’s pummeling in September, Planning Secretary Audrey Scott told leaders of local governments at a convention in Ocean City last week.

Maryland lost about 70 miles of shoreline in all, and continues to lose substantial chunks in areas not yet shored up.

Because 96 percent of Maryland’s shoreline is privately owned, the damage left property owners — not governments — looking for a way to clean up, Mrs. Scott said.

A state program run by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has only about $1.5 million a year to give out as loans to homeowners trying to restore damaged shorelines. About $70 million of the restoration cost is falling to private property owners.

But by showing that erosion is degrading water quality in the Bay, the country’s largest estuary, Maryland may qualify for federal help, Mrs. Scott said.

Environmentalists have voiced concerns about Isabel’s effects on the Bay. Too much erosion harms the ecosystem by dumping in soil and debris that cloud the water, smothering grasses and suffocating fish.

Surveys show that the Bay lost a record number of underwater grasses last year, partly because wet weather pushed so much runoff pollution into the Bay.

Federal money could help fill what Mrs. Scott calls a “major gap” in the recovery from Isabel.

“There’s an attitude sometimes that nature is taking its course, that this is all part of nature,” Mrs. Scott said, “but if you’re talking to a homeowner with water a foot from their homes, where they used to have a 50-foot yard, that’s hard for them to digest.”

Isabel sent a surge of water up to 8 feet high, crushing and collapsing bulkheads, seawalls and stonework, said Leonard Larese-Casanova, director of DNR’s soil erosion program. With the barriers down, exposed soil began to liquefy quickly.

Most of those areas are bayside, in places where property owners already were forced to forge some protection against the energy of the huge estuary, Mr. Larese-Casanova said.

Along tributaries, there were more areas that lay unprotected, he said. Some shorelines that once were sloping beaches now need more sand, more grading and stone or marsh to become stable.

Only a small percentage of Maryland’s 4,000 miles of shoreline was eroded, Mr. Larese-Casanova said, but the damage continues as waterways pick up energy from tides and storms and eat away pieces of shoreline.

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