Poplar Island in the Chesapeake Bay is a world-class example of the beneficial reuse of dredged material. Maintenance dredging of the Bay’s shipping channels keeps commerce moving safely in and out of the Port of Baltimore. The island’s restored tidal wetlands and other habitats benefit a range of native fish and wildlife, while providing opportunities for scientific research and education.
Visitors to Poplar Island often come aboard the Terrapin, a 48-foot-long, twin-engine crew boat built in 2003. The Terrapin is a hard-working part of the operations of the Poplar Island project. Transporting the crew from Tilghman Island for daily operations and visitors during the public tour season between March and October, it plays an important role in public education, community events and research activities on the island.
Recently, the Terrapin’s diesel engines were repowered to meet Tier III emission standards, using funds from the Maryland Volkswagen Mitigation Settlement administered by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE). With advanced technology that can significantly reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) and particulate matter, Tier III engines were the most efficient option that was feasible for the repower project. The result is a much cleaner diesel engine and fewer emissions entering the environment of the Chesapeake Bay.
The repowered engines are expected to result in a 13% reduction in NOx and a 56% reduction in particulate matter over their operational lifetime.
“Poplar Island is one of our great coastal restoration projects and it’s great that the main boat that we use to take visitors to Poplar is now using upgraded diesel equipment,”said Maryland Port Administration Executive Director William P. Doyle.
The older engines were removed, scrapped and replaced with two new 730-horsepower marine diesel engines, alongside upgrades to the transmission and jet propulsion system, by Shore Power Solutions of Chester, MD. Maryland Environmental Service (MES), which operates the Terrapin for MPA, managed the repower project.
The Terrapin upgrade project was successfully completed in May of 2021, and following sea trials, the vessel was placed back into regular service. According to John Mirabile, MES Equipment Fleet Manager, the Terrapin is back to performing its important role for staff and visitors to Poplar Island, and is “working fine and very reliable.”
Since 2008, 275 dray trucks have been upgraded, and 118 pieces of diesel cargo-handling equipment such as forklifts, tugs, top loaders and locomotives have been retrofitted or replaced at the Port of Baltimore. As part of funding available through the Volkswagen Settlement, MPA is currently planning to retrofit an additional marine engine and replace 18 pieces of heavy-duty diesel equipment with newer models. To date, the Port’s clean diesel-equipment upgrade programs have helped remove more than 5,100 tons of air emissions.