NOAA awards grant for oyster restoration use
— Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, both D-Md., announced this week that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has awarded a $156,101 federal grant to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation for a restoration project in the Choptank River Habitat Focus Area.
“We were awarded three years of funding, this is the second year,” said Doug Myers, Maryland senior scientist of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. “Congress needs to appropriate the money on an annual basis.”
This project includes oyster restoration efforts that will increase the population of native Eastern oysters in the Little Choptank River and Tred Avon River.
“We cannot allow our commitment to oyster restoration waver, because a healthy Chesapeake Bay means a healthy economy,” Cardin said. “This federal investment in our oyster restoration
efforts demonstrates a commitment to both.”
Myers said the first year’s appropriation was $131,000, and if the third year’s appropriation is approved, CBF will be awarded $132,000 for a total of $420,000.
“We’re thrilled, and we’re very happy that they are giving full funding for this project,” Myers said. “We will wait with bated breath next year about the same time.”
The different amounts come from different levels of
activity and associated match each year, according to Myers.
Originally, after applying to the grant, CBF determined Hambleton Island was not a feasible project due to a large volume of seagrasses growing all around the island; a living shoreline could not be created without covering up grass beds, and NOAA did not support the funding.
Myers said Hambleton Island, which is owned by CBF, instead will stand as a
long-term monitoring site of how sea grasses through the Bay respond to sea level rises and other climate changes. CBF scientists will monitor the site.
With the funding, Myers said CBF can build oyster reefs that have a high enough density of oysters on them.
“One of the deliverables of the grant is for us to put 20 million spat on shell out into the Choptank Habitat Focus Area each year,” Myers said.
“(Aug. 2), we’ll be finishing the last deployment (about 5 million spat of shell) for the first year.”
Through the planted population, the oysters can reproduce, export larvae and help rebuild oyster populations throughout the Bay, Myers said.
“Our oysters filter our water, provide an important source of food for our families and an important source of income for our watermen,” Cardin said. “I’ll keep fighting to ensure our partners at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the Choptank River Habitat Focus Area have the resources and funding they need to continue their important work.”
The Choptank River Complex was selected by NOAA as a Habitat Focus Area — a place where multiple NOAA offices and outside partners focus efforts to achieve healthier habitat.
“The Chesapeake Bay is vital to the environmental and economic success of our state — and a thriving oyster population is central to
a healthy Bay and the livelihood of our watermen,” Van Hollen said. “As we continue to push the administration and the Army Corps of Engineers to prioritize oyster restoration, we are fighting hard for federal investments in programs like the Choptank River Habitat project. I will keep working to restore our Bay and support our watermen.”
In the Choptank area, NOAA and partners are restoring degraded oyster reef habitat to increase native oyster populations and are rebuilding important fish habitat, researching the benefits of oyster reef ecosystem services, and conducting living resource assessments.
This work improves management by encouraging complementary conservation actions across federal, state and local government and engages local communities to ensure their increased involvement in and ownership of the protection and restoration of coastal habitats.
Chesapeake Bay Foundation staff and volunteers deploy spat on shell from their custom oyster restoration vessel Patricia Campbell.