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Shore's Harris Creek targeted for oyster restoration

Efforts to restore native oysters in Maryland's portion of the Chesapeake Bay are about to begin in earnest, as state and federal officials air plans to conduct large-scale reef rebuilding projects in Harris Creek on the Eastern Shore.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources, along with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the US. Army Corps of Engineers, are scheduled to present their plans for oyster restoration work in Harris Creek from 1 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum inSt. Michaels.

Harris Creek, on the east side of Tilghmann Island and near the mouth of the Choptank River, has been targeted for major work starting later this year to reclaim and replant lost oyster reefs.

"It was historically a very important harvest area," said Michael Naylor, DNR's shellfish director.  Though surveys suggest perhaps 10 million oysters are still in the creek, he added, many reefs have been lost to disease and silt buildup. 

The creek was among many sanctuary areas in the bay the O'Malley adminstration set aside a couple years ago as part of its strategy for rebuilding native oyster populations.

The Harris Creek project is one of the first aimed at fulfilling the Obama adminstration's goal of restoring oyster habitat and populations in 20 bay tributaries by 2025.

The state intends to spend $7.5 million set aside in this year's capital budget for rebuilding lost reefs, Naylor said, using old oyster shell where available as well as other material.  The Army Corp also plans to begin building up roughly 22 acres' worth of reefs in the creek. Once the reefs have been built up, seed oysters produced at the University of Maryland's Horn Point hatchery will be planted there.

Members of the public are invited to the open house to have their questions answered and to hear any suggestions for changes to the restoration plan. For more, go here.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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