The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District, resumed the construction of oyster reef in the Tred Avon River Oyster Sanctuary in Talbot County, Dec. 14, 2016.
The Corps awarded an approximately $1-million contract Sept. 26, 2016, to Blue Forge LLC to construct the reefs. Blue Forge LLC is a Service-Disabled, Veteran-Owned Small Business.
Eight acres of reef will be restored using aged mixed shell in water depths greater than 9 feet mean lower low water (MLLW). The mixed shell comes from processing plants in the mid-Atlantic region and is permitted to be imported and placed in the river.
"Our team is excited to continue restoration work in the Tred Avon River to reach established oyster restoration goals,” said Angie Sowers, Corps, Baltimore District integrated water resources management specialist. “Successful oyster restoration is a key component of overall Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts, 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.”
So far, the restoration team comprised of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Oyster Recovery Partnership (ORP), National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science has restored 16 acres of alternate substrate reefs in water depths between 9 to 20 feet MLLW in the Tred Avon River as well as placed spat-on-shell on 19 acres of existing oyster reef habitat.
There is a total of 78 acres of reef restoration work identified in the Tred Avon River Oyster Restoration Tributary Plan, plus placement of spat-on-shell (baby oysters) on an additional 69 acres of existing low-density oyster reefs, for a total of 147 acres.
The Corps also plans this winter to start the construction of an additional (up to) 10 acres in the sanctuary, primarily in water depths between 6.5 and 9 feet, based on the completion of an environmental assessment in November 2016 that found no significant impacts would occur from construction in waters at this depth.
Water depths above restored reefs will be reduced by 12 to 15 inches following placement of spat-on-shell on the constructed reefs. Quality-control procedures have been put in place to ensure that there is 6 feet of navigational clearance above all constructed reefs. No further direct navigational impacts are anticipated from the restoration work in the Tred Avon. No substrate will be placed within federally-maintained channels. NOAA will revise their navigational charts to reflect restoration areas and depths, and Blue Forge LLC will work with the U.S. Coast Guard to issue a Notice to Mariners.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ Oyster Advisory Commission, which is comprised of conservationists, government officials, scientists and watermen recommended Aug. 1, 2016, that the Corps and non-federal sponsor Department of Natural Resources continue oyster restoration in the Tred Avon River after a delay was requested in December 2015 to review restoration progress.
“The state is committed to the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement and the restoration of five tributaries for the ecological and economic benefit of all,” said Maryland Natural Resources Secretary Mark Belton. “The department will continue to work with all of our partners and stakeholders, including watermen who work the water, to ensure that restoration is done in an open and transparent manner."
In September, the Corps also signed a five-year, $700,000 agreement with ORP to coordinate monitoring efforts of the mixed-shell and rock constructed reefs in both Harris Creek and Tred Avon sanctuaries. ORP will be working collaboratively with the scientific community, divers and local watermen on the monitoring project to measure the status and condition of the restored oyster populations at these sites at three-year and six-year milestones.
In addition to the Tred Avon River, Harris Creek and the Little Choptank River, the Department of Natural Resources anticipates selection of the next two tributaries for restoration in 2017. The goal is to restore 10 tributaries by 2025 – five in Maryland and five in Virginia. Harris Creek, the first sanctuary to be restored, was completed in 2015 and is considered the largest restoration project of its kind in the world.