August 15, 2018
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  • The Oyster Recovery Partnership will bring its 65-foot planting vessel, the Robert Lee, up from Cambridge to plant oysters in the Severn River as part of Operation Build A Reef.
    Photo courtesy of the Oyster Recovery Partnership
    The Oyster Recovery Partnership will bring its 65-foot planting vessel, the Robert Lee, up from Cambridge to plant oysters in the Severn River as part of Operation Build A Reef.
  • The Oyster Recovery Partnership will bring its 65-foot planting vessel, the Robert Lee, up from Cambridge to plant oysters in the Severn River as part of Operation Build A Reef.
    Photo courtesy of the Oyster Recovery Partnership
    The Oyster Recovery Partnership will bring its 65-foot planting vessel, the Robert Lee, up from Cambridge to plant oysters in the Severn River as part of Operation Build A Reef.

Local Organizations Partner To Plant 50 Million Oysters In Severn River

Maya Pottiger
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June 27, 2018

By the end of July, the Severn River will contain an additional 50 million oysters.

Through Operation Build A Reef, the Oyster Recovery Partnership and Severn River Association are collaborating to plant 10 million oysters in the Severn River. Prior to the collaboration, the Department of Natural Resources contracted the Oyster Recovery Partnership to plant 40 million oysters in the river.

“We’re already going to have our planting vessel in the area, and we thought, ‘Why not use this opportunity to really maximize these efforts?’” said Karis King, the public relations and events manager at the Oyster Recovery Partnership. “We contacted the Severn River Association. They were very, very excited about this. It really presented a unique and rare opportunity for the community to get engaged.”

Bob Whitcomb, chair of the oyster committee at the Severn River Association, has spent time advocating for a large-scale project in the Severn River.

“[Operation Build A Reef] puts together two longstanding organizations dedicated to improving the river and pulls their resources specifically to build a reef,” Whitcomb said. “We’re going to try to restore that reef to its natural habitat.”

Operation Build A Reef provides a tangible way for community members to be involved with restoring the river. With a $100 donation, you can purchase a bushel of spat-on-shell, or baby oysters, that will be directly planted into the Severn River.

“There’s a tremendous appetite among people to be directly involved, to do something tangible, to make a direct contribution to water quality and, in this case, oyster restoration,” said Paul Schurick, the director of partnerships at the Oyster Recovery Partnership.

One of the goals of Operation Build A Reef is to provide the Severn River community with an opportunity to take ownership in the river.

“We want people to feel that this is their river, and they’re playing a role in cleaning up this river and maintaining it,” Schurick said.

However, an oyster restoration project already exists in the Severn River: the Marylanders Grow Oysters program. There are many differences between the projects. Marylanders Grow Oysters allows waterfront property owners to raise spat-on-shell to adulthood in cages for a year before they are planted into the water.

Though more hands-on, the program puts roughly 1 million oysters into the river each year. Operation Build A Reef will put spat-on-shell directly into the Severn River with plantings that are on a much larger scale.

The Severn River is a lower-producing river system when it comes to oysters, and there hasn’t been a large-scale planting in more than five years, said Ward Slacum, the director of program operations at the Oyster Recovery Partnership.

The Oyster Recovery Partnership has monitored the oysters from the last planting, and they are thriving, large and mature, according to Slacum.

“We’re adding to that population in the hopes that they will do as much as they can for water quality,” Slacum said.

There are many benefits to having a clean river, Whitcomb said.

“All of us enjoy cleaner waters and improved marine habitat that’s improved more opportunity for fish and crabs to come to our river,” Whitcomb said. “We’ll have a healthier, more beautiful, scenic Severn.”

There are four plantings tentatively scheduled for July 16, 18, 23 and 30. All plantings will take place at the 13-acre sanctuary between the Severn River Bridge and Naval Academy Bridge. Those who want to witness the plantings are invited to watch from Jonas Green Park. For more information and to donate to the project, visit www.buildareef.org.


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