A major milestone in both Virginia oyster restoration efforts and the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement was celebrated on September 25 at the Hermitage Museum in Norfolk, Virginia. Grant funding, provided by the Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund, was awarded to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the Elizabeth River Project to complete oyster restoration in the Lafayette River. The river will become the first fully restored tributary since the signing of the 2014 agreement.
The oyster outcome in the Watershed Agreement calls for the restoration of native oyster habitat and populations in 10 tributaries by 2025. Currently, six Chesapeake Bay tributaries in Maryland and Virginia have been selected and are in various degrees of restoration.
The Elizabeth River Project plans to construct 2.25 acres of oyster reef, while the Chesapeake Bay Foundation will establish 3.25 acres, to provide habitat not only for oysters, but also for fin fish, crabs and mussels and provide feeding ground for birds. This will bring the total of coastal reef, including natural and added reef structures, on the Lafayette River to 80 acres.
“The rebound of the Lafayette oyster and the restoration of the Lafayette River are a shining example of what we can accomplish when federal, state and local governments partner with industry and advocacy organizations to better our communities.” said Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA).
The Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund is administrated by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and is funded primarily by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. On September 19, a record $12.6 million in funding was announced to support 44 environmental projects in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. In addition, the grants will generate more than $21.2 million in matching contributions for a total conservation impact of $33.8 million.