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Festival Foundation seeks grant to restore oysters to Urbanna Creek

by Larry Chowning

At the Middlesex County Board of Supervisors meeting on May 6, county administrator Matt Walker reported that the Urbanna Oyster Festival Foundation is seeking a grant to restore oysters to Urbanna Creek.

Walker said the foundation is requesting a grant through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Small Watershed Grants Program seeking to implement a restoration and community engagement project to restore the ecological health of Urbanna Creek.

“They intend to build and restore two reef systems within the creek by constructing three-dimensional reef structures and seeding them with spat (baby oysters) on shell,” said Walker.

“They plan to develop a partnership between the county and town, three area schools and Hampton Roads Sanitation District (HRSD),” he said. “This partnership includes monitoring programs conducted by regional students, with nutrient analysis conducted by HRSD through its laboratory facilities.”

Education and community outreach methods will be hosted and date and results analysis will be shared with the community via a new “Restore Urbanna Creek” website and community workshops on sediment and nutrient control, said Walker.

The Oyster Festival Foundation plans to include a collaboration of participants from Christchurch School, Middlesex High School, Middlesex County and the Town of Urbanna in the project. It hopes to build reefs and seed them using spat on shell grown primarily by Shores and Ruark Seafood, said Walker.

Under the plan, Christchurch School will provide spat on shell sets for educational purposes and community participation to add to the reefs along with additional single oysters grown by the school, said Walker. Creek dock owners will be invited to grow seed oysters for the reefs. Once the reefs are built, continued monitoring will be conducted as the reefs grow and demonstrate water quality improvements.

“I believe this project will contribute measurably to restoration improvement,” said Walker.

Oysters help improve the quality of bay waters by filtering 50 gallons of water per day.

Supervisors agreed to fund $333 to aid in the cost of grant preparation and also offered “in-kind” services such as GPS mapping, public relations and marketing, and website development.

The Town of Urbanna is also supporting the project with a $333 donation and in-kind contributions such as space at the town marina and elsewhere.

Read the rest of this story in this week’s Southside Sentinel at newstands throughout the county, or sign up here to receive a print and/or electronic pdf subscription.

posted 05.28.2014

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