Smith Island is suffering a disease affecting many other island communities: erosion. When the power of the wind and waves hits, residents of Rhodes Point look out their windows to see whitecaps where there used to be sand. And they worry about their way of life.
This community, dating from 1657, is looking for help from the Maryland Port Administration, which must dispose of 100 cubic yards of "spoil" dredged from Baltimore shipping channels over the next 20 years. That material, much of it clean, has to go somewhere, and present sites are fast filling.
The big obstacle to using this spoil at Smith Island is cost. Erecting a sea wall to keep tides from stripping the new material will add to the bill. But allowing Rhodes Point to gradually slip into the sea will cost, too, in loss of a precious bit of Maryland culture. Since a new, environmentally safe dump site will be an expensive undertaking, barging the silt to eroding islands offers an exciting alternative.
Maryland should do what it can to save Smith Island. And it should act now, before a big storm takes another bite out of the island, making restoration far more difficult and more costly.