Some believe it is inevitable that Smith Island will be lost to erosion and rising sea levels. We disagree. As members of Smith Island United, a group formed to preserve Smith Island, we believe the government has pretty much eliminated the word ""inevitable"" when it comes to the future of Chesapeake Bay islands.
Hart Miller and Poplar islands in the upper bay were basically ""created"" by the government from open bay waters. These are very big projects. Poplar Island, off Tilghman Island, started in 1998 with a 35,000 foot stone dike, which was then filled with dredged spoils and is currently over 1,000 acres of high land and marsh. The total investment in the island's creation is about $1 billion, 75 percent from the federal government and 25 percent from the state. The federal Fish and Wildlife Service promoted this project for the migratory birds and nesting turtles. James Island, another mid-shore disappearing island site, is also in the planning stage. It would be another thousand acres.
Based on the Hart Miller and Poplar island projects, there is obviously plenty of know-how available to protect Smith Island from erosion and to accommodate sea level rise well into the next century. The task could be accomplished at a small fraction of the cost of those huge projects, but we believe the rewards to Marylanders in preserving their unique historic island would be far greater. Unlike Poplar Island, Smith Island has people carrying on the watermen's work and ways that have been going on for centuries. Unlike Poplar Island, we think our island is the gem of the bay from an environmental point of view. Our creeks, bays, marshes and thousands of acres of submerged grasslands are a prime nursery for the crabs, oysters and fish we catch that are so important to Maryland's economy. That's what's at stake here.