The Commonwealth of Virginia recently announced that the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) has received a $500,000 grant from The Nature Conservancy to support the construction of a large-scale oyster sanctuary in the Piankatank River near Fishing Bay.
The project, a joint venture between the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, The Nature Conservancy, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is intended to strengthen oyster stocks throughout the river.
Construction on the $3.8 million project began on May 26, 2014. Additional sanctuary reefs at the location will be constructed next year.
The sanctuary is situated in a part of the river that will provide optimal oyster larvae distribution through the river, increasing the chances the larvae will produce oysters far beyond the sanctuary’s boundaries.
The project is part of the Corps’ goal to restore 10 Virginia tributaries for native oysters by 2025. The $500,000 grant, given to the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC), will be the state’s funding match for the first phase of the project. The reef will be off-limits to oyster harvesting.
The Conservancy’s grant to VMRC for the non-federal match component of this project was made possible by two grants from The Mary Morton Parsons Foundation and the Virginia Environmental Endowment that were matched by private donors and public funds.
The reef project will experiment with the use of clean ground concrete as substrate. Ground concrete is less expensive than building the entire reef out of oyster shells. Building the reef foundation with clean ground concrete will allow the state to conserve oyster shells for oyster aquaculture operations and for VMRC’s annual oyster replenishment program, where empty oyster shells serve their most productive uses.
“We need a less costly, equally safe and effective substrate for our oyster sanctuary reefs so we can continue the tremendous progress we have made in restoring Virginia’s oyster harvests through replenishment shell plantings and to continue to surge in the production of oyster aquaculture products,” said John M.R. Bull, Virginia Marine Resources Commissioner.
The clean ground concrete, the size of an oyster shell, will be transported by truck to a mobilization site and loaded onto boats by a loader and conveyor and then deployed within the sanctuary boundaries.
The four partners in this project, VMRC, TNC, the Corps, and NOAA will monitor the sanctuary to determine if this type of substrate can be used successfully and safely in future oyster reef sanctuaries.
source: Commonwealth of Virginia