(Sept. 19, 2014) Work on Bishopville Pond project, more than a decade in the making, began in late August and is expected to be completed next month.
“We’ve been pushing for it for about 15 years,” Bishopville resident David Herr said last week.
The objective is to have a series of pools, runs and weirs, which will create a more natural waterway that will allow for fish passage and will improve the quality of water. Eels and fish such as river herring and white perch will be able to access seven miles of upstream habitat for spawning and as a nursery for their young. All three are listed by the National Marine Fisheries Service as species of special concern because of their declining populations on the East Coast.
Turtles will also benefit. Their sole way to cross the road has been to walk across and they have frequently been run over while doing that. After the work is completed, the turtles will be able to go up to the pond without crossing the road.
Another objective, long considered a major one for Bishopville residents, especially those living near the pond, has been to get rid of the pond’s muck and to have cleaner water in it.
Keith Underwood, founder and principal of Underwood & Associates, an Annapolis firm specializing in landscape architecture and ecological restoration, has been operating heavy machinery to scoop muck from the bottom of the pond. Dave Wilson, of the non-profit Delmarva Conservation and Development, estimated only a couple of loads of muck would be taken to the county’s central landfill.
Most of the muck would be incorporated with soil and sand and put in the haul road, a temporary access road at the pond. That road will become a sandstone weir.
All metal sheeting will be removed from the dam, but the concrete foundation will remain and boulders will be added. A series of step pools and rock weirs will be constructed from the tidal segment of Buntings branch to the non-tidal segment.
The berm at the pond will not be publicly assessable. A much earlier version would have been assessable. The 2002 plan called for the pond to be reduced to two acres, to be deepened to 8 or 10 feet and to be separated from two streams that would join to become one before going under the road and out to the river. People would have been able to walk in between the ponds and the streams.
An even earlier version, discussed in 2001, would have added an adjustable gate to the so the pond’s water level would have been lowered during the downstream fish migration system. That version, however, would have produced a rather disagreeable odor while the submerged vegetation would be open to air when the water level dropped.
The project started years ago as a way for the State Highway Administration to do mitigation for trees removed during the revitalization of Route 113. As time dragged on, the SHA did its mitigation elsewhere and the Maryland Coastal Bays Program started coordinating the project, in conjunction with the Maryland Department of the Environment and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
The Chesapeake Trust Fund is providing $500,000 and the Fish and Wildlife Service of the Department of Natural Resources is providing $480,000. The Maryland Coastal Bays Program is providing $100,000 and will monitor the fish passage for five years.
Although discussions about the project started more than a dozen years ago, the project kept getting delayed for one reason or another. One delay was caused by the need to study whether proposed changes would have any detrimental effect on the bridge and road. Lack of funds was also a problem.