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Ten to sixteen million oyster spat on the Robert Lee are planted on the Turtleback Bar, a public oyster bar in the Choptank River.
Ten to sixteen million oyster spat on the Robert Lee are planted on the Turtleback Bar, a public oyster bar in the Choptank River. (Kim Hairston / Baltimore Sun)

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has awarded $800,000 to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to help restore the Chesapeake Bay's oyster population, U.S. Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin announced Tuesday.

"The Chesapeake Bay is part of who we are as Marylanders – it is part of our heritage and part of our culture – and it's our greatest natural resource. This funding is a federal investment in the lives and livelihoods that depend on the Bay," said Mikulski, D-Md., who is chairwoman of the committee that funds NOAA.

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"The health of Maryland's oyster population is critical to the Chesapeake Bay and our natural environment," said Cardin, D-Md., a senior member of the Environment and Public Works Committee. "We know that oyster restoration efforts work and this new funding will allow for continued progress."

The funding also provides for ongoing monitoring efforts to clearly document the oyster population gains in Maryland's oyster sanctuaries.

The DNR will use the federal dollars to produce and plant 1.5 billion hatchery seeds in three years and apply consistent monitoring protocols to evaluate project performance.

The state's oyster recovery effort continues implementation of the bay-wide strategy to restore oysters, identified as part of President Obama's 2009 Chesapeake Bay Executive Order.

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