A superficial look at the President's budget proposal for coastal storm damage reduction projects leaves the impression that our headline is mistaken. After all, after years of budget proposals that started around $40 million and had to be doubled by Congress, the FY17 budget contains nearly $82 million for these projects. A quick look under the hood shows that more than $62 million of that total is for a project off the coast of Maryland that is essentially substantially man-made.
Our purpose is not to knock the Poplar Island project. Its goal is to reconstruct a series of islands to their size in 1947 using 40 million cubic yards of sand. That's about 40 times the amount of sand that some of the largest Federal "shore protection" projects use. This project, however, is not for resiliency but for environmental restoration. More accurately, it establishes an environmental habitat that will improve the health of fish and fowl in the the Chesapeake Bay region by taking 575 acres of uncontaminated sand dredged from the Baltimore Harbor. That's arguably a good use of sand that normally would be dumped offshore.
What's important to know is that the Poplar Island project along with one for Assateague Island comprise the only sand nourishment in the President's entire FY 17 budget! That was also the case for his FY16 budget proposal! There are people living on inhabited portions of the mainland as well as barrier islands with authorized Federal projects that have a pressing need for sand to replace what has been lost from storms that range from Jonas to El Nino. They have people, infrastructure, hotels, residences, banks, hospitals and much more at risk from rising sea levels, but the President's budget says, in effect, that they can pound sand.