Army Corps Responds to Watermen Concerns Over Oyster Restoration Projects

A December 31, 2015, Star Democrat article reported that the United States Army Corps of Engineers believes preliminary data from oyster restoration projects in Harris Creek shows an increase in oysters but that more time is needed to fully assess the success of restoration efforts. The Corps issued its statements in response to concerns raised by local watermen and a request from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to delay further work on the Tred Avon River restoration project pending a performance analysis. DNR expects a report on oyster restoration efforts to be released in July of 2016. From the article:

In a recent email, Angie Sowers, integrated water resources management specialist with the [Corps], Baltimore District, said preliminary results do show some success in the recently completed Harris Creek sanctuary. …

“Areas that had less than one oyster per square meter now have upward of 25, preliminary results from the (Oyster Metrics Workgroup) show,” Sowers said in her email. …

Sowers said the workgroup has outlined metrics to track success for the oyster restoration projects and the strategy is to take samples at three and six years, to gauge success of the restoration efforts.

“The first reef bars completed in Harris Creek are currently undergoing the 3-year monitoring. The majority of the restored reefs are 2 years old or younger,” Sowers said. “Therefore, a significant portion of the oysters planted are not yet at reproductive age … not enough time has passed to allow the full impact of the investments to be seen.”

The article noted that Sowers’ response was based on concerns raised by watermen:

In a phone interview, Bunky Chance, president of Talbot Watermen’s Association, said data coming out of Harris Creek indicates restoration efforts have not been successful. …

Both Chance and Bob Newberry, chairman of the Delmarva Fisheries Association, said Broad Creek, which is part of a commercial fisheries area, has a higher spat count, and oyster bars in Broad Creek are doing better than the sanctuary in Harris Creek. …

In a recent interview, Newberry said he has concerns regarding large rock piles that were put into Harris Creek improperly and that he said have done more than $30,000 in damage to watermen’s boats.

Besides responding to the watermen’s specific concerns, Sowers also explained in the article how the Corps has included watermen in its restoration projects.
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