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May 29, 2013

Governor O’Malley, BPW Vote To Move Major Oyster Restoration Project Forward

by kpeterson

Governor Martin O’Malley and the Board of Public Works today approved a wetlands license to support a landmark oyster restoration project in the Chesapeake Bay. The $31 million project will ultimately restore 371 acres of oyster bars along the bottom of Harris Creek in Talbot County.

“Today we take another significant step forward in our fight to rebuild Maryland’s native oyster population and restore the Chesapeake Bay,” said Governor O’Malley. “Harris Creek was a historically lush, active reef, and our scientists believe this project will serve as a prototype for the work we are doing to restore the Bay.”

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) created the Harris Creek Sanctuary under Governor O’Malley’s 10-point Oyster Restoration and Aquaculture Development Plan. The plan was adopted in 2009 to enhance oyster restoration for ecological purposes and encourage the development of aquaculture businesses, while continuing to support a more targeted and sustainable public oyster fishery.

Since then, the State of Maryland has significantly increased its network of oyster sanctuaries — from 9% to 24% of remaining quality habitat; increased areas open to leasing for oyster aquaculture and streamlined the permitting process; and identified areas off limits to leasing to support a more targeted, sustainable, and scientifically managed public oyster fishery.

Under Governor O’Malley’s leadership, the State of Maryland is providing $21 million in funding for the Harris Creek project, with the Army Corps of Engineers and NOAA contributing $7.4 million and $4 million respectively.

“I want to commend Governor O’Malley and the Board for approving this project,” said Stephan Abel, Executive Director of the Oyster Recovery Partnership. “This permit is vital to enable us to continue our efforts to restore once thriving oyster reefs in Harris Creek to population levels last seen decades ago.”

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