DNR gets funding to restore oysters
Special from the Star Democrat
— Maryland oyster restoration got a boost in federal funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin, both D- Md., announced last Tuesday that the Maryland Department of Natural Resources was awarded $ 800,000 in NOAA funding to go to oyster restoration activities in the Chesapeake Bay.
According to NOAA spokesperson Kim Couranz, the cooperative agreement between NOAA and DNR states that the money in fiscal year 2016 funding would go to support large- scale oyster restoration in Maryland waters, supporting production of spat ( baby oysters) on shell production that will be planted primarily in the Tred Avon and Little Choptank rivers.
“It could support reseeding in Harris Creek if needed, as well as seeding in two as- yet- to- be- selected tributaries,” Couranz wrote in an email.
Maryland has three oyster sanctuaries, one in each Harris Creek, the Tred Avon River and Little Choptank River. The Maryland Oyster Advisory Commission is tasked to find two more tributaries to restore, as per goal set in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement that five tributaries be restored in Maryland by 2025. Virginia is also required to restore the oyster population in five tributaries within its state waters.
“The Chesapeake Bay is part of who we are as Marylanders — it is part of our heritage and part of our culture — and it’s our greatest natural resource,” said Mikulski, who is vice chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science, which funds NOAA. “This funding is a federal investment in the lives and livelihoods that depend on the Bay.”
NOAA has chosen the Choptank River Watershed as a “Habitat Focus Area,” so the funding supports that work as well.
The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, another partner in Maryland oyster restoration, is currently undergoing a process to identify more reefs in the Tred Avon River for restoration.
So far, 35 acres of substrate — or artificial reef constructed from stone or mixed shell — and seedonly planting have been completed in the Tred Avon River. The goal is to restore 146 acres in the Tred Avon, a mix of seeded artificial reef or planted shell with baby oysters ( spat- on- shell).
DNR plans to use the federal money to produce and plant 1.5 billion hatchery seeds — from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Horn Point Laboratory in Cambridge — in three years and apply consistent monitoring protocols to evaluate project performance.
“This funding also provides for the continuation of the ongoing monitoring efforts that have allowed us to clearly documents the tremendous population gains notched by habitat restoration projects in Maryland’s oyster sanctuaries, where federal, state and local partners have worked together to deliver some of the world’s most successful recovery efforts,” Cardin said.