AAPA Seaports Advisory

Environment: Baltimore, Long Beach

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Baltimore: Poplar Island Environmental Restoration Project Wins National Award

Maryland’s Poplar Island Environmental Restoration Project has been awarded the Innovation in Sustainable Engineering Award from the American Society of Civil Engineers. Poplar Island is built with dredged material from shipping channels leading to the Port of Baltimore.

"The Poplar Island restoration project is a stellar example of what can be accomplished when vision, collaboration and creativity come together to improve economic, social and environmental sustainability," said Robert D. Stevens, Ph.D., P.E., president of the American Society of Civil Engineers. "We’re very pleased to recognize the Maryland Port Administration and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with our Innovation in Sustainable Engineering Award."

The project combines traditional design and construction such as dikes, dredging and grading with techniques for constructing wetlands to create productive intertidal wetlands and upland habitat.

In the mid-1800s, Poplar Island was a 1,140-acre community for a small population of Chesapeake Bay fishermen and their families. It later became a retreat for Presidents Roosevelt and Truman. After decades of erosion and sea level rise, nearly all of the original acreage was underwater. By the late 1990s, only about four acres of the island remained. In 1998, restoration of Poplar Island began under a partnership between the MPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Today, Poplar Island has been restored to its former size with a thriving wetland habitat thanks to more than 27 million cubic yards of dredged material.

The island consists of 570 acres of upland habitat and 570 acres of wetland habitat. More than 200 species of birds have been identified onsite or just offshore. More than 150 diamondback terrapin nests were counted in 2014 and 1,163 terrapin hatchlings tagged and released in 2013. Dozens of species of trees, marsh shrubs, herbaceous plants and grasses have been planted by adult volunteers and school children. The island is scheduled to be expanded by another 575 acres of wetland, upland, and open water embayment beginning in 2016. 

"We are very fortunate to have an outstanding partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers," said Maryland Port Administration (MPA) Deputy Executive Director Kathy Broadwater. "Together we created a sustainable approach to keep the shipping channels safe and navigable while restoring the environment and providing opportunities to observe wildlife in its natural setting within the Chesapeake Bay."

Students frequently visit Poplar Island to engage in activities, such as grass plantings and turtle releases, as well as learning about the importance of habitat restoration.
Photo/Maryland Port Administration 

Long Beach Port Improves Air Quality, Reducing Health Risks

The Port of Long Beach has surpassed every air pollution reduction milestone set for 2014 by the San Pedro Bay Ports Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP).

An annual, comprehensive inventory of port-related air pollution emissions in 2014 found the port’s efforts to reduce pollution have cut diesel particulates by 85 percent since 2005, exceeding the CAAP goal for 2014 of a 72 percent reduction. Furthermore, smog-forming nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides have dropped 50 percent and 97 percent, respectively. The corresponding goals for the year are 22 percent and 93 percent.

The port attributes the air quality improvements  to its Clean Trucks Program, low-sulfur fuel regulations for ships, increased use of shore power for cargo ships and the its Green Flag Vessel Speed Reduction Program.

The 2014 levels of diesel particulates and sulfur dioxides improved from 2013 levels, when overall reductions were measured at 82 percent and 90 percent, respectively. However, nitrogen oxides increased slightly in the study, down 50 percent in 2014 compared to 54 percent in 2013.

Officials attributed the nitrogen oxide change to more passenger cruise ship calls (234 calls in 2014 compared to 123 the year prior) and increased emissions from container ships at anchorage due to the congestion late last year.

Long Beach City Health Officer Dr. Mitchell Kushner said the port’s progress in improving air quality during the last decade is expected to reduce risks in surrounding areas for cancers and other serious illnesses such as asthma and chronic lung disease.

"These lower emission levels translate into major public health benefits, and lead to a more vibrant and healthy community," said Dr. Kushner.

The annual "emissions inventory" is reviewed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, California Air Resources Board and South Coast Air Quality Management District. The CAAP, created in 2006 in collaboration with the Port of Los Angeles, outlines strategies to significantly reduce pollution from ships, locomotives, trucks, terminal equipment and harbor craft that move cargo.

"When the Clean Air Action Plan was adopted almost 10 years ago, the port made a promise to the community to reduce air pollution and to be a better neighbor," said Harbor Commission President Lori Ann Guzmán. "While our work is not finished, these results show our commitment to living up to our responsibilities as the Green Port."


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