by Patrick Bloodgood
Oysters will receive 25 acres of new habitat in the Piankatank River as part of the Chesapeake Bay Oyster Recovery Project.
The Norfolk District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is the lead federal agency for implementing the $2 million reef project, which will provide a variety of habitat to fish and bottom-dwelling organisms including recreational fish species and will help to improve the water quality in the river.
“Under the native oyster restoration master plan 63 tributaries were evaluated and the Piankatank was deemed a priority tributary based on its historical, physical and biological attributes necessary to develop self-sustaining oyster populations throughout the Chesapeake Bay Watershed,” said Susan Conner, Norfolk District chief of planning and policy branch.
Starting this week, crews will work about a half-mile from shore, Monday through Thursday for 10 hours a day initially, using barges and cranes to place granite rock within the project limits.
For the first time granite rock will be used to construct a reef in the Piankatank River, previous reef construction projects in the tributary consisted of shell or crushed concrete.
“The Piankatank has a high level of oyster spat and recruitment, which is the basis for future thriving reefs. Since oyster shell is a limited resource, we thought it would be best to save that resource for other competing uses in the bay,” Conner said.
The new reef construction isn’t expected to impact navigation in the waterway, but will be marked with danger signs to avoid any potential issues.
Once complete, the Corps will monitor and adaptively manage the reef to ensure its long-term success.
The Piankatank River Project is being constructed in partnership with the Virginia Marine Resources Commission and The Nature Conservancy and is part of the Chesapeake Bay Oyster Recovery Program, which was originally authorized in the Water Resources Development Act of 1986 and includes reef restoration projects in Maryland and Virginia.
Patrick Bloodgood is the Norfolk District public affairs officer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.