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Harris Creek EA Public Notice

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District is proposing to extend oyster reef restoration into shallower water depths than has previously been performed by the Corps.

Previously, National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) documentation evaluated the impacts of oyster reef restoration at water depths that maintain at least an eight foot water column above restored reefs, including many proposed sites in Harris Creek. The Corps has prepared a supplemental Environmental Assessment evaluating the impacts of expanding oyster restoration and rehabilitation activities into water depths between six and nine feet. This would maintain at least a five foot water column above restored reefs within the Harris Creek oyster sanctuary. The supplemental Environmental Assessment determined there would be no significant environmental impact as a result of this proposed action.

You are encouraged to comment on the finding of no significant impact during the public comment period, Mar. 20 to Apr. 21, 2014. To view the public notice please CLICK HERE.


Maryland (MD) oyster populations have declined dramatically since the turn of the 20th century, largely due to parasitic diseases. Oyster restoration is critical to the economic and environmental survival of the Chesapeake Bay and is a high priority for the State of Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay Program.

Project elements include: (1) disease-free spat from State-owned hatcheries; (2) creation of new oyster habitat; (3) rehabilitation of existing non-productive oyster habitat; (4) construction of seed bars for production and collection of spat; (5) planting spat on the new and rehabilitated bars; and (6) monitoring of project performance. The non-federal sponsor for the Maryland portion is the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MDNR).

The Maryland project cooperation agreement was executed February 27, 1997, with an amendment in July 2002.  The Virginia project cooperation agreement was executed September 17, 2001, with two  amendments in July 2004 and June 2007.  To date, placement locations in Maryland have been in Kedges Strait, Eastern Bay, and the Chester, Choptank, Magothy, Patuxent, and Severn Rivers. Some of these oyster bars were left for natural recruitment; others received hatchery-raised spat (nearly 1.2 billion to date).   Starting in 2001, the program was opened up to the Commonwealth of Virginia.  The FY 2001-2012 funds have been split between the Norfolk and Baltimore Districts to support activities in Virginia and Maryland, respectively.  In Virginia to date, activities have been focused on oyster bar creation in Tangier Sound, Pocomoke Sound, the Great Wicomico River, and the Lynnhaven River, creating a total of 393 acres.  Through fall 2012, we have constructed approximately 481 acres of new Maryland oyster bars in the Magothy, Severn, Choptank, Patuxent, and Chester Rivers, as well as Kedges Strait and Eastern Bay.  For the 13 acres of sites built in the Severn River in fall 2009, spat was placed on these bars in August 2010.  Monitoring of these projects will continue for the next several years.  Construction of the 2010 substrate sites began in January 2011 in the Cook Point sanctuary in the Choptank River near Cambridge, MD, and was completed in February 2011.  Construction of the 2011 substrate sites, 21.9 acres in Harris Creek, was completed in July 2012. An additional 33.8 acres in Harris Creek was constructed in spring-summer 2013 using FY 2012 funds.

Prior to the 2009 restoration activities, the USACE oyster restoration program did not focus on large-scale tributary restoration in Maryland as it does now.  From 1997 to 2006, the Baltimore District received relatively small funding allocations which were expended on a number of small sites, scattered throughout the Maryland portion of the Chesapeake Bay.  An assessment of the sanctuary sites constructed during this period was prepared and can be found in the September 2011 report, 2008 Sanctuary Assessment.

Larval Transport Model

Additional Information

Authorization: Section 704(b) of the Water Resources Development Act of 1986, as amended.

Type of Project: Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration

Contribution to the Chesapeake Bay: Directly contributes to Executive Order 13508 goals to restore clean water, recover habitat, and sustain fish and wildlife.

Project Phase: Construction

Non-Federal Sponsor: Maryland Department of National Resources, Virginia Marine Resources Commission

Congressional Interest:  Senators Mikulski and Cardin (MD), Warner and Kaine (VA); Representatives Harris (MD-01), Sarbanes (MD-03), Hoyer (MD-05), Wittman (VA-01), Rigell (VA-02), and Scott (VA-03).


The FY 2013 Maryland contract was awarded in September 2013.  For this contract, clamshell and granite will be placed as substrate on 23 acres in Harris Creek, a tributary to the Choptank River.  The work will be accomplished from December 2013 through February 2014.  Monitoring of the Virginia sites has shown that many of the Great Wicomico and Lynnhaven River sanctuary oyster reefs are exceeding the accepted target for successful oyster restoration. 



Total Estimated Cost (MD+VA)


Federal Cost Estimate


Non-Federal Cost Estimate 


Federal Funds Data  
Allocation thru FY 2012


Allocation for FY 2013 


President Budget FY 20142


Allocation for FY 20142


Balance to Complete


1 Estimate based on the current federal authorization for this program. The long-term master plan has identified a need of $2-6 billion.

2 The President typically sends the budget to Congress in February each year. Upon release, budget amounts for the USACE Civil Works programs and specified projects are posted online at the USACE website in a program budget press book at http://www.usace.army.mil/Missions/CivilWorks/Budget.apsx

3 The final FY 2014 allocation of funds to projects will be available upon enactment of the Energy and Water Appropriations Act or the public release of an approved FY 2014 work plan given continuing authority for the full year.  The FY 2014 funds will be split between Baltimore District and Norfolk District.


FY 2013 Completed Work:  With the funding received, a $1.8M contract was awarded in September 2013 to Argo Systems, LLC, for substrate construction in Harris Creek.  In Virginia, efforts were focused on the completion of a fossil shell survey, continuation of ERDC harvest management modeling efforts, and initiation of development of a Bay-wide NEPA document.  Project monitoring continued at all sites.


FY 2014 Scheduled Work:  

Previous year carry-in funds in the amount of $5,150,000 ($3,150,000 in Baltimore District and $2,000,000 in Norfolk District) are being used for design and construction of the next Tred Avon-Harris Creek substrate contract ($3,150,000), adaptive management of reefs constructed in the Great Wicomico River ($1,500,000), development of a tributary plan for the Lafayette River ($200,000), and complete the tributary plan for the Piankatank River ($300,000).  With the anticipated FY 2014 allocations based on the President’s budget, we will continue program coordination and monitoring ($200,000), add additional acreage to design and construction of the Tred Avon-Harris Creek substrate contract ($4,500,000) allowing for completion of the Harris Creek reef construction, and prepare the next Maryland tributary plan ($300,000).


COMPLETION:  TBD.  With optimal funding and an increase in WRDA cost authority, oyster restoration activities would continue towards achieving the oyster restoration outcome established by the Chesapeake Bay Protection and Restoration Executive Order (E.O. 13508) to restore native oyster habitat and populations in 20 tributaries by 2025.  Without these, it is estimated that by FY16 funds would be used for orderly suspension of the program.

Point of Contact

Baltimore District Public Affairs