Environmental Review Toolkit
Water, Wetlands, and Wildlife

Maryland: Asquith Creek Reef Project

Photo of barge laying the base for the Asquith Creek Oyster Reef
Barge laying the base for the Asquith Creek Oyster Reef

In 2008, the Maryland Transportation Authority (MdTA) and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) partnered with national, State, and local organizations to develop the Asquith Creek Oyster Reef project. A collaborative funding plan, spearheaded by MdTA, the Maryland Legislative Sportsmen's Foundation, and CBF, brought the $172,000 project to fruition. As part of the project, a 3-acre reef base was constructed primarily with concrete from the MdTA's William Preston Lane, Jr. Memorial (Bay) Bridge. In addition to donating the 2,500 cubic yards of concrete for this project, MdTA paid to have the concrete ground into 4- to 8-inch chunks and transported it by barge to the reef site.

CBF and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources have identified oyster reef development as a critically important step in restoring the Bay's ecology. Oyster reefs make up habitat for a wide range of marine animals and, as filter feeders, oysters remove contaminants and improve water quality. Oysters play a critical role in healthy estuaries, but their population in the Bay has declined to merely 2 percent of historic levels.

Oysters require a substrate on which to colonize when they are reintroduced into an estuary or they will sink in the mud and smother. The project team found bridge concrete to be conducive to oyster growth since its weathered and all-natural material replicates natural ecosystem conditions.

To populate the reef, scientists grew 4 million "spat-on-shell"—juvenile oysters attached to old, dead shells—in hatcheries at CBF and the University of Maryland's Horn Point Laboratory. The project team paid for the oysters to be transported by barge to the project site.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and CBF will monitor the Asquith Creek reef annually to collect data on oyster growth, mortality, and the presence of oyster disease.

For more information, contact Dennis Simpson at dsimpson@mdta.state.md.us.

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