Maryland Update

From the Desk of Alison Prost

Fall 2019

CBF Experiments with Oysters in Maryland Living Shoreline

The project could serve as a model for future living shoreline projects that incorporate the water-filtering and habitat-making benefits of oysters.

In Glebe Bay, just off the South River near Edgewater, there’s a small forested peninsula that juts out into the water. For years, the lapping waves have eroded the peninsula’s shores and created cliffs that rise about 15 feet from the water.

The peninsula’s long-term fortunes, however, could begin to change soon. The site now has a new living shoreline that was installed by Arundel Rivers Federation working in partnership with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and Coastal Conservation Association Maryland.

This living shoreline is unique in that it was built with reef balls. In August, contractors manning excavators and bulldozers installed about 300 of the concrete domes along the 700-fort shoreline. The concrete reef balls are made with holes throughout them that help shelter fish, crabs, and other Bay critters. And, the hard surface provides a raised place for oyster larvae to attach and thrive.

CBF contributed 70 of the reef balls, which were placed just off the shoreline, in about waist-deep water. CBF scientists will be monitoring the oyster-set reef balls during the next few years to see if the juvenile oysters will grow and thrive.

The new oysters could help enhance the shoreline’s water-filtering abilities as well. An adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water per day. In October, a CBF mapping team went to chart the shoreline, and found the oysters doing well, according to Karl Willey, CBF’s Oyster Restoration Center Manager. The team was there to create a baseline to determine if the shoreline is effectively reducing erosion.

“Over time, we’ll continue to count oysters and work to determine how well the oysters are stabilizing the shoreline,” Willey said.

If CBF’s reefs do thrive, the project could serve as a model for future living shoreline projects in Maryland that want to incorporate the water-filtering and habitat-making benefits of oysters. “We’re excited to combine the filtration power of marsh grasses and oysters to improve the South River’s water quality, while helping local neighborhoods restore their community property,” said Kevin Green, Interim Executive Director of Arundel Rivers Federation.

Living shorelines enable turtles, otters, horseshoe crabs, and other critters to access the beach for food or to reproduce—unlike bulkheads or retaining walls that armor the shoreline. And shoreline plants help stabilize the land, sequester carbon, and attract bait fish, predator fish, and anglers.

The shoreline construction was funded through grants from Anne Arundel County’s Watershed Protection and Restoration Program, the Chesapeake Bay Trust, and the National Fish and Wildlife Federation. CBF donated the spat and reef balls and is working as a partner with Arundel Rivers Federation on monitoring the project.

—Alison Prost
Maryland Executive Director
Chesapeake Bay Foundation

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