The Lizard Hill Wetland Creation Project is a 20-acre effort near Bishopville, Worcester County, MD. The site, an abandoned sand mine which required remediation, presented a special opportunity to target Atlantic white cedar restoration. This evergreen species and its associated community were once very common along eastern flood plains of coastal rivers but currently are very rare. The site design was a modification of regenerative stream channel (RSC) that would function as a sand seepage wetland draining to Buntings Branch, which drains to the St Martin River and eventually to Assawoman Bay. Construction of the project was completed in late 2011.
Atlantic white cedar have been nearly eliminated from the Maryland Coastal Bays watershed. By re-establishing this type of habitat, the futures of other local endangered species such as pitcher plants, swamp pink, and Hessel’s hairstreak butterfly will improve.
An unnamed tributary running along the north side of the project drains almost 500 acres of agricultural area. Through monitoring over a few years, this creek has been found to have consistently high levels of nitrogen. Diverting a portion of this ditched stream into the wetland has provided an excellent opportunity to reduce nitrogen loads currently entering St. Martin River. Recent water quality data analysis confirms that water leaving the project site carries less nitrogen and phosphorus than that entering. Lizard Hill is considered an important restoration project for the watershed, and is used as an outreach tool and an environmental education classroom. Habitat restoration and monitoring continue on the site.
The project received the Federal Highway Administrations 2012 Exemplary Ecosystem Initiatives (EEI) award. The EEI recognizes exemplary ecosystem and habitat projects that are unique or highly unusual in their geographic scope; use cutting-edge science or technology; attain high levels of environmental standards; achieve high-quality results; and/or promote environmental interests that are particularly valuable or noteworthy. The Lizard Hill project was one of four projects selected in the country.