Those strong partnerships are still growing. The Lynnhaven River is currently the focus of an intensive cooperative effort between the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), Lynnhaven River NOW (LRNow), the City of Virginia Beach, Virginia Beach residents, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Virginia Marine Resources Commission.
The Lynnhaven is one of five Virginia tributaries targeted for large-scale oyster restoration as part of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement. The goal is to reach 152 acres of sanctuary reef in the Lynnhaven. This means 61.4 acres of new reef need to be added to an existing 90.6 acres of reef restored by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, LRNow, and the City of Virginia Beach. These reefs not only help to bring back the famous Lynnhaven oyster, they also filter water and provide a home for fish and crabs—improving fishing, swimming, and boating on the river.
Witchduck Reefs Being Built in 2019
As part of this effort, CBF and LRNow are building 5.25 acres of new oyster reef and planting approximately five million spat (baby oysters) in the Lynnhaven's Western Branch with grant funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and assistance from the City of Virginia Beach. They'll be called the Witchduck Reefs in reference to the neighborhood bordering the Western Branch and its fabled history.
LRNow will construct the base of the Witchduck Reefs using crushed concrete. CBF will jump-start oyster growth on the reefs by seeding them with spat-on-shell oysters. These baby oysters are expected to grow and reproduce, expanding the reef and adding to the oyster population in other parts of the river.
What Oyster Restoration Means for the Lynnhaven Community
The expansion of oyster habitat on the Lynnhaven will lead to many benefits for the local community, including improved water quality, better fishing, swimming, and more. These reefs will add habitat for fish, crabs, shrimp, and other aquatic life, and improve the health and quality of the water. Each adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water per day.
The reefs will not affect recreation. They will be built in areas that aren't typically used for navigation. CBF and LRNow are working with the U.S. Coast Guard, the City of Virginia Beach, and the Virginia Marine Resources Commission to ensure they won't be a hazard. Nearby homeowners will also have the opportunity to weigh in.
How You Can Support the Restoration Effort
Community members can support the restoration work in many ways, including:
- participating in the Save Oyster Shells program,
- volunteering with CBF or LRNow,
- working with LRNow staff on an oyster castle or living shoreline project on their property,
- surveying baby oysters in the river with LRNow's Spat Catcher Program,
- and raising oysters with CBF's oyster gardening program.