A project to restore 10 acres of the Hanover Street Wetlands broke ground — or marsh — on Friday.

It’s part of the Middle Branch Resiliency Initiative Wetland Restoration Project, which eventually seeks to restore 11 miles and 50 acres of wetlands across the Middle Branch area, including around Brooklyn, Cherry Hill, Westport and the Baltimore Peninsula. It’s the largest coastal restoration project in the state.

“We are bringing nature back to neighborhoods from whom it was taken away and protecting those same neighborhoods from storms, flooding and erosion,” said Brad Rogers, the executive director of the South Baltimore Gateway Partnership.

Multiple speakers at a Friday kickoff event noted waterfront investment in Baltimore City has historically happened around the Inner Harbor and much less in southern neighborhoods.

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The wetlands, just behind where Rogers stood, were filled with litter.

Pollution and flooding are major problems for the communities around Middle Branch. For instance, Rogers has spoken before about how flooding at MedStar Harbor Hospital can block one entryway into the hospital and renders the helipad unusable.

The new wetlands would act like a sponge and absorb water, protecting the land from erosion and coastal flooding.

There’s a lot that goes into restoring a wetland, but a major part is adding back plant life that can absorb harmful phosphorus and nitrogen that are currently leaching into the water, explained Kim Grove, the head of environmental research and protection with the Baltimore City Department of Public Works

Grove said that those nutrients are “ going to be used up in these wetlands so we can have a better balance and hopefully less fish kills, which means we’re going to have more crabs.”

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In the summer, it isn’t uncommon to see scores of crabbers dropping pots near the Hanover Street Bridge.

“We want them to have a safe place to fish, we want them to have places that are going to be productive, where they can go and consistently know that they’re going to be able to get the protein that their families need,” said Josh Kurtz, secretary of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

The Middle Branch Resiliency Initiative is using $67 million in combined federal, state and local funds to restore 11 miles of shoreline wetlands.

The Hanover Street Wetlands Project is expected to be completed by the fall of 2025.

WYPR is a media partner of The Baltimore Banner.

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