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During the last 155 years, about 400 feet of a section of St. George Island’s shoreline was swallowed up by the Potomac River, and erosion continued to threaten a section of Thomas Road.

A new shoreline revetment project has been completed by the St. Mary’s County Department of Public Works and Transportation which should protect the approximately 50 homes along the road from being cut off from the mainland and the rest of the island.

The project added 215 feet of large stones ranging in size from 600 to 1,600 pounds with smaller rocks for infill, to an existing revetment along Thomas Road.

“They get heavy storms and whitecaps” off the Potomac at that section of the shoreline, said Zane Rettstatt, engineer with the department of public works and transportation.

The county agency is doing research to find out which entity built the earlier revetment section for future maintenance work. It’s thought it was the work of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Rettstatt said.

“It’s done and it looks good,” he said after the county portion’s was completed, at a cost of $128,050 in an interest-free loan from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. It was built 25 to 40 feet from the shoreline, allowing for placement of backfill behind the revetment — replacing some of the area lost to erosion, according to a county government statement.

This revetment was originally designed in 2008 to protect the road and a property owner there, which would have resulted in a special taxing district for the one person, Rettstatt said.

“It was too much for the guy to handle financially a year,” he said. After Hurricane Isabel in 2003, the price of revetment stone increased dramatically as international demand also surged.

So the project was scaled back from 470 feet to the current 215 feet. “It still protects the Thomas Road for a great many years,” he said.

The rest of the shoreline is wooded, which doesn’t erode as quickly, he said.

State erosion maps show that since 1858 as much as 400 feet of the island’s shoreline has been washed away in the area of the new revetment. Other unprotected shoreline at St. George Island is eroding at a rate of 2 to 8 feet a year, according to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. The highest elevations on the island are 8 feet.

Deed records show that the old St. George Island schoolhouse was on property nearby the new revetment on Thomas Road. The 1-acre site lost about half its size to erosion over the years and the board of education sold the lot to the St. George Island Improvement Association in 1957.

The old school building burned down in 1988 and the property now is the site of a new home.

jbabcock@somdnews.com