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PN 23-06 Chesapeake Bay Oyster Recovery Project, Tred Avon River, Maryland

Posted: 6/23/2015

Expiration date: 8/21/2015


ALL INTERESTED PARTIES: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), Baltimore District, is expanding the scope of the supplemental environmental assessment (EA) for Tred Avon River oyster restoration initiated in 2013 to include planting of disease-free spat-on-shell, or oyster seed, from state-owned hatcheries, on new oyster reefs between 6 and 9 ft mean lower low water (MLLW), and on existing reefs/natural oyster bars between 4 and 20 ft MLLW. This is in addition to the assessment of reef construction on 60 acres in shallow water depths between 6 and 9 feet MLLW that was the initial focus of the supplemental EA. Planting of spat-on-shell will add minimal change to the existing height of the natural oyster reefs, approximately 3 inches, and will increase the proposed project area by an additional 71 acres for a total of 131 acres.

The Corps has authority to provide construction assistance for certain oyster restoration projects under Section 704(b) of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 1986, as amended (33 U.S.C § 2263). This authority provides for the restoration and rehabilitation of habitat for fish, including native oysters, in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries in Virginia and Maryland. Activities under the 704(b) program may include the construction of oyster bars and reefs; the rehabilitation of existing, marginal habitat; the use of appropriate alternative substrate material in oyster bar and reef construction; the construction and upgrading of oyster hatcheries; and activities relating to increasing the output of native oyster broodstock for seeding and monitoring of restored sites to ensure ecological success.

In compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969, as amended, the Corps is developing a supplemental EA for its proposed oyster restoration activities in the Tred Avon River, Talbot County, Maryland under Section 704(b). This EA will supplement several previous EAs, which analyzed oyster restoration more broadly, and are discussed below. Oyster restoration planning was initiated in 2013 for the Tred Avon River. Restoration proposed in the Tred Avon River includes construction to be implemented by the Corps under the 704(b) program, and activities to be implemented by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MD DNR) as credit for the 704(b) program. The draft Tributary Plan and blueprint map are available at http://chesapeakebay.noaa.gov/oysters/oyster-restoration-in-the-tred-avon-river.

The Corps has partnered with MD DNR as the 704(b) program's non-federal Sponsor in Maryland since 1997. The Corps also coordinates with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Oyster Recovery Partnership (ORP). These agencies comprise the Maryland lnteragency Workgroup which facilitates oyster restoration and consults with the scientific community and public stakeholders to ensure environmentally-sound and cost­ effective efforts. There are two important documents that guide how oyster restoration actions are conducted in Maryland. The Corps' long-term, large-scale Native Oyster Restoration Master Plan (2012) guides projects funded for Corps construction. The State of Maryland's restoration actions are conducted in accordance with Maryland's 10-Point Oyster Restoration Plan (2010). For more information on the Corps oyster restoration program see http://bit.ly/NABoysters.

In 1996, the Corps completed a report/EA, the Chesapeake Bay Oyster Recovery Project, which documents the plan formulation in conjunction with non-federal sponsor, MD DNR.  Areas covered by the initial 1996 EA include: Patuxent, Severn, Magothy, Chester, Choptank and Nanticoke Rivers, and near Smith and James islands. Implementation of the recommendations made by this plan began in 1997 and is ongoing, but is restricted to maintaining 8 feet of navigational clearance above the reef. This limits restoration efforts to depths greater than 8.5 ft MLLW (6-inch reefs) or 9 ft MLLW (12-inch reefs). A supplemental report/EA was also prepared in 2002 that evaluated the cost effectiveness of Corps-led oyster restoration, as well as an EA in 2009 that evaluated the use of alternate substrates for reef construction.

In the Tred Avon River, a total of 155 acres of oyster habitat is proposed to be restored. The Blueprint (attached figure) identifies the locations for reef construction (84 acres) and spat-on­ shell plantings (71 acres). The green areas on the enclosed figure indicate the areas where substrate and spat-on-shell will be placed on the river bottom to restore oyster reefs. Depending on current water depths, 6-inch and 12-inch reefs are planned to maintain a minimum navigational clearance of 6 feet. The red areas indicate the seed-only areas where spat-on-shell will be placed on existing natural oyster bottom. As proposed, the Corps will implement the 84 acres of alternate substrate reef restoration. MD DNR is the lead agency for planting spat-on-shell on these 84 acres, as well as planting spat-on-shell on the 71 acres of seed-only restoration as credit for the 704(b) program.

Corps construction of oyster reefs at depths greater than 9 ft MLLW was programmatically assessed in the 1996 Chesapeake Bay Oyster Recovery Project EA. As such, 24 acres of the 84 acres identified for reef restoration, will be constructed in April-May 2015 with seeding to follow. The remaining 60 acres (of the 84 acres) are between 6 and 9 ft MLLW and are assessed in this EA for USACE implementation. The 60 acres of shallow reef restoration is projected for winter 2016-2017 with seeding in summer 2017. Seed-only sites are planned for restoration in the summers of 2016 and 2017. All seeding would be carried out by MD DNR and ORP and would be subject to the Corps' regulatory jurisdiction pursuant to Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 and Section 404 of the Clean Water Act.

For shallow water restoration in the Tred Avon River, the Corps received public input through both a flyer distributed to approximately 500 residents that requested comments by October 15, 2014, and an interagency public open house held November 7, 2013, in Oxford, Maryland. Upon completion of the draft EA, a notice of availability will be advertised (anticipated fall 2015) to provide opportunity for the public to comment on the proposed action.

To assist in the development of the supplemental EA, we are requesting that you provide information concerning your interests or your organization's area of responsibility or expertise within 30 days from the date of this notice to the address below. Substantive public comments received via the NEPA process will be fully considered by the Corps.                                         

U.S Army Corps of Engineers Planning Division (Attn: Angie Sowers), P. 0. Box 1715, Baltimore, MD 21203

If you have questions or comments regarding this project, please contact Ms. Angie Sowers at  (410) 962-7440 or by e-mail at angela.sowers@usace.army.mil

Signed

Daniel BierlyChief, Civil Project Development Branch Planning Division 

 

Corps of Engineers DNR Environmental Assessment NOAA Oyster Restoration public notice Tred Avon