Undammed: Bishopville Project a Success
A four-foot high sheet metal dam has been replaced with 635 linear feet of re-established stable stream channel and wetland habitat. The Bishopville Pond Dam removal project, which spanned a decade, cost $1.5 million — with over half funded by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) through the Chesapeake & Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund.
Representatives from the department, Maryland Coastal Bays Program, Bishopville-Saint Martin’s Neck Community Association as well as State Senator James Mathias, D.-38 and Worcester County Commissioner Jim Bunting, R. attended a recent ribbon-cutting ceremony to commemorate the project, which is near completion.
“The ceremony was a wonderful demonstration of how important the dam removal has been to Bishopville,” says Catherine Shanks, DNR Director of the Habitat Restoration and Conservation Division. “A lot of people came out to celebrate the project, which is almost complete. The new design meets both the needs of the community and the environment, and will persevere time.”
The project site is located at MD Route 367 on Bunting’s Branch, a tributary to the St Martin’s River. The steel portion of the dam has been removed and replaced with a series of pools, runs and weirs to create a more natural waterway with improved ecosystem functions, including fish passage and nutrient pollution reduction.
The area is now transformed and lined with 1,000 trees that were planted by local volunteers, Salisbury University students and Maryland Conservation Corps crews. The trees, mainly Atlantic white cedars, will stabilize the ground around the site and filter storm water.
“The restoration isn’t just dumping rocks and sand in and walking away,” says Roman Jesien, science coordinator for Maryland Coastal Bays Program, as he looks over the site. “This is an innovative ecosystem restoration that allows access at the same time. We’d like to use the new area as a classroom to demonstrate the way things should be done.”
Due to the restoration efforts, seven miles of creek are now accessible spawning and nursery habitat for key fish species, including blue back herring and alewife as well as the American eel. Alewife have already been spotted.
Water quality monitoring conducted by Maryland Coastal Bays and DNR during construction has already revealed a 20 percent increase in dissolved oxygen downstream of the project. Future monitoring is expected to reveal more successes in fish passage ability and water quality improvements.
“Without the support of local residents, the Bishopville community and the Maryland Coastal Bays Program, this project would have never happened,” says Kevin Smith who leads aquatic restoration projects for DNR and was a driving force of the dam removal and redesign. “I hope that the residents here get an opportunity to enjoy the benefits of this project…maybe even catch a fish or two.”