Friday, March 12, 2021

Oh, Oysters Come and Walk with Us

Army Corps did beseech.  Army Corps, partners begin final stage of initial oyster restoration in Tred Avon River

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District, and federal and non-federal partners will resume construction of oyster reefs in early April in the Tred Avon River Oyster Sanctuary in Talbot County, ushering in the final stage of initial oyster restoration for the sanctuary.

USACE awarded a $3.76 million contract March 9, 2021, to BlueForge, LLC, to construct the reefs. BlueForge is a Service-Disabled, Veteran-Owned Small Business based out of St. Petersburg, Florida. Construction is expected to conclude by the end of May.

Approximately 34 acres of reef will be restored throughout the sanctuary using rock in water depths at least 6.75 feet mean lower low water (MLLW). Of those 34 acres, 21 acres will be built 12 inches in height using stone 3 to 6 inches in size with the remaining 13 acres to be built 6 inches in height using smaller stone 2 to 4 inches in size to help mitigate any potential impacts to navigation.

Is it just me, or does $100,000+ / acre seem a little steep for throwing down some rock?  I know, you need to buy the rock, barge it in and dump it, but still. . .

“Our team is excited to begin the final portion of restoration work in the Tred Avon River, which will bring us to a total of 130 acres restored in the oyster sanctuary,” said Col. John T. Litz, Baltimore District commander. “Successful restoration is vital to the health of the Bay, and we look forward to continuing to work with all of our partners to ensure we are conducting restoration efforts as effectively and efficiently as possible.”

The interagency restoration workgroup comprised of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Oyster Recovery Partnership (ORP) began restoration efforts in the Tred Avon River in 2016. To date, 87 acres of reef have been constructed with 440 million seed oysters planted.

The Tred Avon is one of five Maryland tributaries selected for large-scale oyster restoration as a part of the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement. The other tributaries are Harris Creek, Little Choptank, upper St. Mary’s, and Manokin Rivers.

For reference, the area of the Bay and it's tidal tributaries is  2,867,200 acres (4480 square miles). Of course not all of Bay is suitable oyster habitat, some is too fresh, other areas too deep and subject to prolonged hypoxia in summer, but a lot of it is. 

At this rate it's going to be a long time before the oyster population of the Bay is restored.

Fritz's oyster recovery plan. Ban commercial harvesting of wild oysters for at least 5, if not 10 years, and make no attempts to plant oysters. If oysters have not shown a significant (meaningful) increase in abundance by the end of the moratorium, give up on wild oysters, and let the watermen harvest the last three, and look for a suitable replacement in foreign oysters, maybe C. ariakensis. 

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