The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District, and federal and non-federal partners will resume construction of oyster reefs by 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.
“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 USACE, 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 2015. To date, 92.5 acres of reef have been restored 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.
"We're thrilled that funding has been allocated to complete the final stages of reef restoration in the Tred Avon River," said Ward Slacum, Oyster Recovery Partnership executive director. "The Army Corps has led the way on the construction and monitoring of these reefs, and we are excited for the opportunity to plant more oysters in the Tred Avon, which will complete the third of five rivers currently being restored in Maryland."
Restored reefs are monitored every three years and six years after initial restoration. The 2019 Oyster Reef Monitoring Report published by NOAA in December 2020 found that more than 95 percent of all restored reefs monitored across Harris Creek, Little Choptank and Tred Avon Rivers met the minimum threshold oyster density criterion set by the Chesapeake Bay Oyster Metrics success criteria, and more than 80 percent met the ideal, target oyster density.
"These reefs provide habitat and water-quality benefits for the ecosystem,” said Sean Corson, NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office director. “They also will benefit the economy through increased harvest of commercially important species--like blue crab--that use reefs for habitat."
Oyster populations in the Chesapeake Bay have declined considerably in the last century, largely due to parasitic diseases, overharvesting, declining water quality and loss of habitat. Less than one percent remains of historic oyster populations.
Oysters provide numerous environmental benefits, including significant reef habitat to the Bay ecosystem for animals such as blue crabs and fish. Additionally, oysters are filter feeders that improve water quality ─ a single adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water in 24 hours. Oysters also help with cycling nutrients, reducing sediment and storing carbon long term to help mitigate global warming.
USACE received an extension to conduct construction outside of the environmental window. Sites planned near SAV will be constructed first to reduce any potential impacts to the growing season.
For more information on oyster restoration in Maryland, including plans and environmental assessments for the program, high-resolution pictures and Q&As, visit our website at https://www.nab.usace.army.mil/Missions/Environmental/Oyster-Restoration/.