By Kimberly Kweder
Cape St. Claire is forging ahead this month on two long-awaited projects to help alleviate beach erosion, stop water from pooling in streets, and provide habitat for wildlife.
“We’re interested in restoring our beaches, creating a living shoreline, and improving the watershed,” said Beau Breeden, Beaches and Parks Chair for Cape St. Claire Improvement Association (CSCIA).
Cape St. Claire, located on the shores of the Magothy River in Anne Arundel County, is home to over 8,000 residents and 2,300 homes. “It’s one of the largest waterfront communities in Anne Arundel County,” said Breeden.
Eight years ago, the CSCIA began working on a plan to protect the area from sea level rise and the continuing erosion of its beaches. The resulting restoration project is a partnership with the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, Biohabitats Inc., and Shoreline Design.
The main sites targeted for the project are at the main beach and the Lake Claire area. The project calls for the creation of a 970-foot living shoreline and 8,000 square feet of tidal wetland on the shores of the Magothy. CSCIA committed $854,500; Anne Arundel County and the Chesapeake Bay Trust $298,000; the State of Maryland committed $525,000, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services offered two grants at $150,000.
“One of the most unique aspects of this project is the long-term dedication of members of the community, partners, and elected officials representing the residents of Cape St. Claire,” stated an article from the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay.
The first phase of construction at the main beach work began in March with the installation of two headland breakwaters 150 feet offshore to slow down the erosion. Breeden said strong uninterrupted winds roll down the Bay over 33 miles without any land or structures before hitting the community beach. The headland breakwaters will control the impact of the waves. They’ve also installed 7,000 plants in the living shoreline to help fight the beach erosion.
With support from the Little Magothy River Association, a co-beneficial dredge at the end of the Little Magothy took sand and replaced it above the main high water line at the beach and re-graded it. Reusing the sand instead of it being shipped away is similar to what Ocean City crews do every year for re-establishing recreational beach areas, Breeden said.
The other site is focused on improving habitat for fish and aquatic life. At Lake Claire, crews are setting out 40 oyster reef balls—concrete structures that oysters attach and grow on. They are also adding inverted root wads that provide woody debris, creating feeding and shade zones for fish. The root wads come from uprooted trees left near the 4-acre pond. They also provide stabiliztion to the banks and slopes.
Although the beach today is not what it used to be long ago, science, technology and innovative ideas are repairing the environmental damages here, Breeden says. “Mother Nature always wins and you have to continually use best practices to protect and restore the watershed,” he added.