Oys­ter restora­tion con­tin­ues with fund­ing un­cer­tainty

Dorchester Star - - News - By DUSTIN HOLT dholt@ches­pub.com Fol­low Caro­line/Dorch­ester Ed­i­tor Dustin Holt on Twit­ter @ Dustin_S­tarDem.

MADI­SON — As the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Foun­da­tion con­tin­ues its oys­ter restora­tion ef­forts along trib­u­taries of the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay, or­ga­ni­za­tion of­fi­cials are un­sure what the fu­ture holds. On Thurs­day, May 18, the Patricia Camp­bell spent the day on the Lit­tle Chop­tank River plac­ing oys­ter shell with new spat pro­vided by the Uni­ver­sity of Maryland Cen­ter for En­vi­ron­men­tal Sci­ence Horn Point Cen­ter in Cam­bridge.

More than 4.2 mil­lion spat were on board the boat that would be placed in an oys­ter sanc­tu­ary along the bot­tom of the Lit­tle Chop­tank River near Madi­son in Dorch­ester County. The sanc­tu­ary is one of 51 in Maryland, and one of five des­ig­nated to place oys­ter spat in to help re­vive the ecosys­tem and oys­ter pop­u­la­tion.

Cur­rently, Har­ris Creek and the Tred Avon River are the other two work­ing sanc­tu­ar­ies with two more left to be des­ig­nated. The Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Foun­da­tion is part of the Oys­ter Re­cov­ery Part­ner­ship run be the Maryland De­part­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources. The part­ner­ship has planted 3.2 bil­lion spat over 563 acres for about $47.6 mil­lion.

Har­ris Creek had 2.23 bil­lion oys­ter spat planted on 350 acres. The Lit­tle Chop­tank has 814 mil­lion planted on 178 acres with be­tween 100 and 200 acres left to plant. About 153 mil­lion oys­ter spat have been planted on 35 acres in the Tred Avon with about 60 acres re­main­ing to do.

“In early April, the Trump Ad­min­is­tra­tion sig­naled that they want to spend a lot less money on this kind of stuff,” said Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Foun­da­tion As­sis­tant Me­dia Direc­tor Tom Zolper. “In a few weeks, the Trump Ad­min­is­tra­tion will be giv­ing the de­tails about fund­ing. We should learn then how much less we could get. We are very con­cerned about the po­ten­tial loss of fed­eral fund­ing that has been the bedrock of bring­ing the oys­ters back.

“For six years, we have had all this suc­cess, and all this ex­cite­ment about Har­ris Creek, about Lit­tle Chop­tank River, about the Tred Avon River,” he said. “Scientists be­lieve these are the nurs­eries that will help us bring back our oys­ter pop­u­la­tions while im­prov­ing the qual­ity of the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay. But now, some­one wants to pull the plug on this whole suc­cess story.”

Oys­ter Re­cov­ery Part­ner­ship plans to fin­ish the three cur­rent plant­ing sites in the next few years with the re­main­ing two sites to be com­pleted by 2020.

“We have al­ready seen the ben­e­fits be­cause the new shells with the oys­ters spats help grow the eco-sys­tem for more than just oys­ters,” said Maryland Se­nior Sci­en­tist Doug My­ers. “The grow­ing cre­ates a reef struc­ture, which sup­ports up to 300 dif­fer­ent species of marine crea­tures. The re­sult means a health­ier Ch­e­sa­peake Bay, and more growth out­side the sanc­tu­ar­ies, which means bet­ter oys­ter and crab har­vests.

“The tar­get for the sanc­tu­ar­ies is 50 oys­ters per square me­ter,” My­ers said. “Har­ris Creek, where we started this process, we are now at that den­sity and are see­ing the ben­e­fits. Horn Point has been a huge part­ner be­cause they are plac­ing the spats on the oys­ter shells be­fore we can place them in the wa­ter. Our hope is we get the Bay to the point where there is enough nat­u­ral re­pro­duc­tion where we won’t need to con­tinue re­build­ing reefs with oys­ter shells and spats.”

Zolper said fund­ing from the Na­tional Oceanic and At­mo­spheric Ad­min­is­tra­tion to Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Foun­da­tion has been de­creas­ing even be­fore the Trump Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“The pot of money was be­ing di­rected to other places as other ar­eas caught on to our suc­cess and try to do the same thing we do in their places,” he said. “We lost out in the grant race to North Carolina.

PHOTO BY DUSTIN HOLT

Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Foun­da­tion staffers aboard the Patricia Camp­bell place oys­ter shells in the Lit­tle Chop­tank River near Madi­son in Dorch­ester County Thurs­day, May 18.

Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Foun­da­tion aboard the Patricia Camp­bell ready to place oys­ter shells in the Lit­tle Chop­tank River near Madi­son in Dorch­ester County Thurs­day, May 18.

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