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Oh Oysters, Oh Volunteers, Oh Shenandoah!

Some great things happening around the Chesapeake Bay watershed this week, and Bay Daily gives a shout-out to a few of them today.

This week, a pair of Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) oyster restoration boats placed hundreds of Reefballs
concrete reef balls in the Lafayette River in Norfolk, Va., part of a partnership effort to help restore native oysters to this historic river near the mouth of the Bay.

While the Bay’s oyster population generally remains seriously depressed, earlier surveys in the Lafayette indicate a relatively robust oyster population there, despite the river’s overall troubled health. Harvesting oysters has been banned in the Lafayette since the 1920s due to contamination associated with industrial activities and stormwater runoff.

But in 2011, CBF, the Elizabeth River Project, and more than 100 community partners announced a plan to bring the Lafayette back to health, including opening the river to safe shellfish harvesting by 2020.

DSC_0103To help nurture the river’s oyster population, CBF this week placed 275 reef balls on state-protected sanctuary reefs and along designated shorelines. The reef balls, domed concrete structures full of nooks and crannies, are designed to attract baby oysters and help protect them from natural predators. To tackle the reef ball job, CBF called upon its two uniquely designed oyster restoration vessels, the Patricia Campbell from Maryland and Chesapeake Gold from Gloucester, Va.

Other partners in the effort include Restore America’s Estuaries and the National Oceanic and DSC_0128 Atmospheric Administration, funders of the project; the Rotary Club of Norfolk, which years ago raised money to build a sanctuary reef in the Lafayette; and the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, which oversaw construction of the reef and monitors its progress.

As this important restoration work was ongoing in the river, a group of state, local, military, and CBF officials gathered on shore to celebrate another important partnership effort helping restore the Bay: the 25th annual Clean the Bay Day.

DSC_0042This annual litter and stream cleanup has over the years recruited more than 122,000 volunteers and pulled some 5.8 million pounds of debris from nearly 5,500 miles of Bay and river shoreline. While CBF sponsors the cleanup, its success depends upon the dedicated participation of scores of local government, businesses, and individual volunteers every year.

Wednesday, several of the most stalwart volunteers were honored as “Clean the Bay Day Heroes” and presented with specially designed awards as small tokens of CBF’s appreciation.

The United States Navy was named a hero for its involvement from the event’s inception 25 years ago. City VB CU award Localities honored were the cities of Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk, and Virginia Beach. Citizen volunteers getting hero awards were Christopher and Donna Bennett, Mike Kirsch, Steve Pahno, Sharon Smith, and Steve White.

Hats off to them and all participants of Clean the Bay Day – and a call to come out for this year’s Clean the Bay Day on June 1 to clean up a local creek or river near you. More on that here.

Finally, Bay Daily salutes a clean water effort hundreds of miles from the shores of the Bay but no less important and meaningful.

A Tuessday event on the banks of the Shenandoah River in Clarke County, Va., celebrated the formal acquisition by Shenandoah University of the former Virginia National Golf Course. This historic, 195-acre riverfront property now will be reclaimed as a natural green space and outdoor classroom, offering university students hands-on experiences in outdoor leadership and education, history, and environmental studies.

ShenandoahThe project also will help protect the storied Shenandoah River, better buffering it from runoff pollution, providing habitat for a greater diversity of wildlife, and helping improve water quality downstream, including the Chesapeake Bay.

But let Bobby Whitescarver, a career conservationist and a partner in the project, tell the story, including a video of a riverside performance by the Shenandoah University choir singing “Oh Shenandoah.”

If it doesn’t inspire you, you aren’t breathing.

Chuck Epes

Chesapeake Bay Foundation

(Photos: Top, Patt McKinnon; Bottom, Bobby Whitescarver; all others, CBF staff.)


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Go CBF for this move. I know that you will be successful for this is for the good of all. Conserving oysters is one way of preserving our mother earth.

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