NOAA awards grant to aid Bay oys­ter restora­tion

Times-Record - - NEWS - By KAYLA RI­VAS kri­vas@star­dem.com

— 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 ser vices, and con­duct­ing liv­ing re­source as­sess­ments.

This work im­proves man­age­ment by en­cour­ag­ing com­ple­men­tar y conser va­tion 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.

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