Much has been written lately questioning Maryland’s Department of Resources (DNR’s) reef-building operation as part of the Little Choptank River oyster restoration work. Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy (MRC) has no first-hand experience with this project, but has closely watched and participated in oyster restoration efforts by DNR and others in various other watersheds and closely observed the work of DNR on Harris Creek, in particular.
The Harris Creek Project was started in 2011. Since then 188.6 acres of underwater reef have been constructed and 711,600,000 oysters have been planted. The mortality of the planted oysters was only slightly more than half as high as predicted, and there was a very good natural spat set in 2012. MRC did document a modest decline in water quality in Harris Creek in 2013, which we attribute to the combination of a very early wet season (high rainfall in June when crops are fertilized but still nascent) and the stirring of sediment resulting from the oyster restoration effort. But we fully anticipate that as the oysters in this system grow, that water quality will improve beyond what it was before the plantings occurred.
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