EASTON, Maryland - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District, awarded an approximately $1-million contract Sept. 26, 2016, to Blue Forge LLC to construct oyster reefs in the Tred Avon River Oyster Sanctuary in Talbot County. Blue Forge LLC is a Service-Disabled, Veteran-Owned Small Business.
Eight acres of reef are planned for construction using mixed shell in water depths greater than 9 feet Mean Lower Low Water (MLLW); there is also a contract option for an additional 10 acres to be constructed in the sanctuary, primarily in water depths between 6.5 and 9 feet. The mixed shell comes from processing plants in the mid-Atlantic region and is permitted to be imported and placed in the river. The optional work is dependent upon completion of an environmental assessment and coordination of reef materials to be used. Work will occur between December 2016 and March 2017.
“We are very happy to resume restoration in the Chesapeake Bay, as the initial results from Harris Creek monitoring show restoration efforts are meeting established goals,” said Angie Sowers, Baltimore District integrated water resources management specialist. “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 Oyster Advisory Committee comprised of watermen, environmentalists, scientists, elected officials and state and federal representatives recommended Aug. 1, 2016, that the Corps and non-federal sponsor Maryland Department of Natural Resources continue oyster restoration in the Tred Avon River after an initial delay was requested in December 2015 to review restoration progress.
"Maryland is pleased that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is continuing oyster restoration activities in the Tred Avon River," said Secretary Mark Belton, Maryland Department of Natural Resources. "Following the release this summer of the department's five-year oyster report, which showed some signs of progress, the department's reconstituted Oyster Advisory Commission gave its overwhelming support for restoration work to commence. The department looks forward to working with the Corps and others to ensure that navigational issues and substrate material are addressed in an open and public arena to ensure continued support for oyster restoration work. Maryland remains committed to meeting its Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement goals of restoring five tributaries by 2025."
So far, the team has constructed 16 acres in water depths between 9 to 20 feet MLLW in the Tred Avon River under National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) documentation that approves work that maintains an 8-foot navigational clearance. Public review of a supplemental environmental assessment on oyster restoration that would expand restoration into water depths between 6.5 to 9 feet MLLW of the Tred Avon ended Aug. 19 and included a public meeting in Easton Aug. 9. The Corps is reviewing the comments and expects a decision by Nov. 1, 2016, that would enable the contract option to construct the additional 10 acres in the shallower water depths.
No direct navigational impacts are anticipated from the proposed project. Proposed restoration sites that appeared to pose a navigational conflict based on some initial user feedback were removed from the plan. No substrate placement is proposed within federally-maintained channels. NOAA will revise their navigational charts to reflect restoration areas and depths, once known, and the contractor will work with the U.S. Coast Guard to issue a Notice to Mariners. In addition, quality-control procedures have been put in place to ensure that there is 6 feet of navigational clearance above all constructed reefs.
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) by Oyster Recovery Partnership on 63 – 71 acres of existing oyster reefs.
In addition to the Tred Avon River, Harris Creek and the Little Choptank River, MD DNR anticipates selection of the next two tributaries for restoration by spring 2017. The goal is to restore 10 tributaries by 2025 – five in Maryland and five in Virginia.
Comprehensive Chesapeake Bay oyster restoration in Maryland is a partnership between several agencies. The Corps restores reef structure to re-establish oyster habitat where it previously existed. MD DNR produces the spat-on-shell at the state-owned Horn Point Hatchery and provides for the planting of the spat-on-shell at restoration sites by the Oyster Recovery Partnership. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration maps available restorable water bottom using sonar in conjunction with various ground‐truthing methods and also funds the production and planting of seed oysters.