(ANNAPOLIS, MD)—Alison Prost, Maryland Executive Director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, issued this statement following word that the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has requested the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers delay an oyster restoration project on the Tred Avon River. The project is restoring 24-acres of oyster bar as part of a wider restoration effort on the Choptank River.
"Oysters are making such an encouraging comeback now. They still face considerable challenges. We're disappointed that Maryland's natural resources agency has become one of those hurdles. Why would we want to delay the recovery of the oyster population in the Bay?
"It was our understanding DNR wasn't going to alter existing oyster projects while it studied the future course of state restoration efforts. Its study wasn't supposed to block work already underway. This delay would come in the middle of a project that was designed with public input, including watermen.
"No one aspect of the state's oyster plan should be singled out for delay. Would DNR ask for oyster harvesting to be halted until its study was finished, if conservationists made that request?
"The oyster restoration projects on the Choptank River will help clean up a tributary that is badly polluted. These mega-oyster bars will become filtering factories for cleaner water, and will create rich habitat for blue crabs, rockfish, and other species. Scientists also say these bars could indirectly help watermen. Oyster larvae from the large sanctuary reefs could help increase productivity on nearby bars established for harvesting.
"In designing the Tred Avon project, the Army Corps was sensitive to local concerns, and modified the plans to reach an agreement with local watermen on how the project was to proceed. By asking the Corps to stall the project now, Maryland is disregarding a public process that led to consensus."