Out of a dam springs a reef


There’s an article today in the Baltimore Sun about the creation, just this week, of a brand new oyster sanctuary at the mouth of the Chester River. Utilizing rubble from a demolished dam on the Patapsco River, the sanctuary represents two years of collaborative efforts between the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Army Corps of Engineers, the State of Maryland, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to get the site conceptualized, approved, and established.

The sanctuary is by no means without controversy, however. Chester River watermen have raised concerns about the possible contaminants lurking in the concrete of the old dam, and how permanent submersion in water may cause them to leach into the river. Also, as this project is the first of its kind in the tributaries of the Upper Eastern Shore, watermen are leery of long-term, unforeseen outcomes resulting from dumping millions of tons of concrete onto the river bottom.

Concerned watermen and locals should take heart, however; a project similar to this initiative has successfully created habitat for oysters on the Severn River. Experiments with concrete ‘reef balls’ have also been effective.

The Chester was long a location for some of the Chesapeake’s richest oyster beds: many will recall, in particular, the deadly skirmishes over the 'white gold’ that took place on the Chester in the 19th century during the Oyster Wars. While those days of plenty and plunder may be gone forever, perhaps this reef project is the beginning of a a new lease on life, clinging to the bottom of the Chester, for the imperiled Chesapeake Crassostrea virginicus.

Read the Baltimore Sun article here: http://bit.ly/skeg2U