Md. Gov. Moore awards $9M contract for oyster restoration project

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore awarded millions to fund what officials are calling “the largest oyster restoration project on the planet.”

According to a news release, Moore awarded $13.7 million in Capital Grant funding, and a $9.1 million contract with the nonprofit Oyster Recovery Partnership during a Board of Public Works meeting on Wednesday.

The nonprofit reconstructs reefs by going to tributaries, such as Harris Creek and the Little Choptank, Tred Avon, St. Mary’s and Manokin rivers to plant hatchery-reared oysters.

The main goal of the funding is to enhance native oyster populations — which is good news for polluted waterways, as oysters are excellent at filtering water.

According to the release, Maryland officials hope this helps meet the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement of 2014 and Maryland’s Oyster Restoration and Aquaculture Development Plan.

“We’ve met 99 percent of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement minimum threshold for oyster restoration in our tributaries and 77 percent of the high threshold,” Maryland Department of Natural Resources acting secretary Josh Kurtz said in the statement.

“It’s been an absolute restoration success in Harris Creek, the Little Choptank, Tred Avon, and St. Mary’s — and soon, the Manokin.”

Last year, Maryland saw its largest oyster harvest in decades.

Oyster season in Maryland runs from October through the end of March, and preliminary state figures show the 2021 to 2022 harvest in the Chesapeake Bay was the largest since the 1986 to 1987 season.

The Bay Journal reported that the total was about 511,000 bushels, up from 333,000 during the previous season.

In addition, the board approved $1 million for the Department of Natural Resources to conduct surveys to locate oyster habitats and plant hatchery-reared oysters on reefs in the Eastern Bay sanctuaries of the Chesapeake Bay. The hope is to increase the oyster population, habitat and harvest.

WTOP’s Michelle Basch contributed to this report.

Hugh Garbrick

Hugh graduated from the University of Maryland’s journalism college in 2020. While studying, he interned at the Queen Anne & Magnolia News, a local paper in Seattle, and reported for the school’s Capital News Service. Hugh is a lifelong MoCo resident, and has listened to the local radio quite a bit.

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