The Best Part

A Day Seeding Four Million Oysters into the Little Choptank River

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Crossing the Bay to plant four million oysters (weighing almost 30 tons) in the Little Choptank River!

"There's just something about being on the water . . . you're in a different world." Native Marylander and CBF oyster restoration volunteer Jim Ridgell is standing on the bow of the Patricia Campbell, our oyster restoration vessel, when he says this, staring out at the flat, endless Bay stretched out before us. We're on our way back in after spending the first sunny day in a string of wet weather planting oysters in the Little Choptank River off the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

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Jim Ridgell, a native Marylander who week after week for the past 10 years has been coming out to our Oyster Restoration Center to volunteer with us.

As a CBF oyster volunteer for close to 10 years, this is hardly Ridgell's first trip. In fact, for roughly a decade now, Ridgell has been coming out to our Oyster Restoration Center in Shady Side, Maryland, to clean shell, load up oysters, or whatever else needs doing. "It's not about the oysters so much," says Ridgell. "It's about helping the Bay—something that's given me so much in my life. It's about giving back to something you love."

And give back he does. On this trip alone, we planted four million oysters (or 27 tons!) onto a 1.9-acre reef we're helping to build with partners as part of a network of reefs in the Little Choptank Sanctuary. By summer's end, we hope to plant roughly 25 million baby oysters across the

Planting
Oysters are moved on a conveyer belt to the bow of the boat where they are spread across the water below.

sanctuary, which will mean incredible things for the Bay. In addition to providing critical habitat for critters like fish and crabs, oyster reefs do much for water quality, with one adult oyster able to filter and clean up to 50 gallons of water a day

Restoring the Bay is intrinsically tied to restoring its native oyster population, and so in 1997, CBF started its oyster restoration program. "The realization by the 1990s that oysters were so critical to the Bay ecosystem and that their numbers were down 99 percent inspired the effort," says CBF's Director of Fisheries and founder of its oyster restoration program Bill Goldsborough. As oyster restoration in the Bay started to take shape in the ’90s, different conservation groups and agencies assumed different roles with CBF focusing on public outreach and engagement through oyster gardening, education, and other programs. "Involving citizens in the work is essential. You're forging a constituency for restoration," says Goldsborough.    

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At the end of the conveyer belt, the oysters go through a spreader that evenly distributes them across the water.

Later, in 2002, the addition of the 60-foot Patricia Campbell vessel "changed our game completely," says Karl Willey, manager of CBF's Maryland Oyster Restoration Program. With her unique way of planting millions of oysters in less than an hour via a conveyer belt, which connects to a spreader at the bow of the boat that evenly distributes the oysters across a reef, the Patricia Campbell is "one of a kind," says Willey. "There's no other boat quite like it." Now with 250 volunteer oyster gardeners and the Patricia Campbell, we're planting between 26 and 30 million oysters in Maryland waters a year.

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"Patricia Campbell" Captain and Maryland Oyster Restoration Manager Karl Willey at the end of a satisfying day on the water.

There are no words between us as we motor back in at day's end. Silently soaking up the rare appearance of the sun and lulled into a satisfied tired with muddied hands by our side and the comforting hum of the Patricia Campbell's diesel engines. Four million oysters in the water has a way of making you feel utterly and completely gratified. But then again, there's just something about being on the water.

—Text and Photos by Emmy Nicklin
CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media

 

Click here to learn more and to watch a video of the Little Choptank oyster planting.

And sign up to become an oyster volunteer like Jim Ridgell!

 


The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Summertime Fishing

Locklear Story 0416 II Sam Loustanua"How will I know when a fish bites?" "Young Sam" asked his grandfather, Sam Locklear. Both Sams and younger brother, Nate, were fishing the Severn River with me last summer. It's always a treat to have enthusiastic ten- and seven-year-old anglers aboard, especially when a trip starts like this one. The words were hardly out in the air before two chunky white perch climbed onto the teasers on Young Sam's line, nearly taking the rod out of his hands. 

We were fishing a 12-14-foot-deep restoration oyster reef near the U.S. Naval Academy. This particular reef, an underwater point jutting out into the channel, is an example of where oysters thrive. The reef is elevated in the water column where currents bring the oysters food, carry away waste, and attract other critters—like worms, barnacles, grass shrimp, and mud crabs—that in turn attract predators like white perch and rockfish. We could see the perch on my skiff's fishfinder. The Severn has more successful restoration reefs like this one—they form the happy side of this story. 

The other side isn't as pretty. With supper on ice, the Sams, Nate, and I went upriver to a 25-foot-deep reef that showed hard bottom but no fish. It's a survey site for an upcoming restoration project, so we got out an electronic temperature/salinity/oxygen meter and lowered its sensor's ten-meter cable to get a profile of the water column. As usual for summer here—and in too many other parts of the Chesapeake system—the dissolved oxygen measured below two milligrams per liter from the bottom up to about 15 feet. That's a lethal level for perch and rockfish and stressful even for crabs. In fact, on the bottom that day, the level was below 0.5 mg/l—low enough to kill worms. No wonder the fishfinder screen was blank below 15 feet. That's what a "dead zone" looks like. This is the ugly side of the story. It illustrates why we concentrate oyster restoration in shallower water. 

As Memorial Day approaches, we've got dead zones on our minds. But why do dead zones form each summer? From human-caused nitrogen pollution. Take a look at this excellent graphic from YSI, Inc. (the maker of my oxygen meter). It concentrates on the Gulf of Mexico, but the global map shows hypoxia ("the environmental phenomenon where the concentration of dissolved oxygen in the water column decreases to a level that can no longer support living aquatic organisms") all over the Earth, including the Chesapeake.

What can we do about it? We have a plan called the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, and it's slowly turning the bad stuff around while we celebrate successes like these new oyster reefs. Want to make sure that Young Sam, Nate, and thousands of other youngsters have a healthy Bay to grow up around? Click here to find out how you can help.

John Page Williams, CBF's Senior Naturalist

 


Going Above and Beyond for Oysters

OFred Millhiser didn't expect to spend retirement hauling oyster shell. However, for the past four years, the former government employee has done just that. A CBF member for many years, upon retirement, Millhiser decided to get more involved. After attending a workshop at CBF's Maryland Oyster Restoration Center (MORC), he soon began growing juvenile oysters from his home dock.

A few years later, Millhiser became aware of a shortage of oyster shell. Oyster shell is vital to restoration efforts as it provides baby oysters the material needed to settle and begin the maturation process. While making his weekly drive between his home in St. Mary's County and Annapolis, Millhiser noticed Stoney Kingfisher, a popular seafood restaurant. "[They] sell lots of oysters during oyster season, including a Sunday all-you-can-eat oyster menu, so I knew there 20160403_103905were lots of shells," he said.

Millhiser approached the management and soon the restaurant was outfitted with a collection cage and the staff was trained to separate shells for recycling. Millhiser personally offered to pick up the shells from Stoney's and deliver them to MORC. "I have been delivering about 2-3 bushels of shells per week during oyster season since then," he said. 

Thanks to Millhiser, nearly 250 bushels of oyster shell have been diverted from landfills and used in CBF's oyster restoration projects in Maryland and Virginia. "It has been most satisfying to help in a small way with what I think is one of the most important steps to a healthy Chesapeake Bay, namely restoration of native oysters," said Millhiser. 

You never know when a CBF volunteer, such as Fred Millhiser, will be inspired to go above and beyond to make a difference! 

—Melanie McCarty
CBF's Donor Communications Manager

Right now through April 30, The Orvis Company will match any donation made to CBF's oyster restoration dollar for dollar, up to $30,000! Give today and help Save the Bay!


This Week in the Watershed

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Oysters, a keystone species in the Chesapeake Bay, are the only public fishery not managed using scientific information. A new bill in the Maryland legislature seeks to change that. Photo by Dave Harp.

Oysters just might be the most important critter in the Chesapeake Bay. A keystone species, not only do they help clean the water (an adult oyster can filter 50 gallons of water every day!), oyster reefs also provide critical habitat for other fisheries. Despite the unique and critical role oysters play in water quality, they are the only major public fishery in the Bay that isn’t managed using scientific information. 

To add science to oyster management, several Maryland legislators have introduced a bill called the Sustainable Oyster Harvest Act of 2016. The bill would put the public oyster fishery on the path towards more sustainable, science-based management by requiring a new study to determine the current oyster population and recommend appropriate scientific indicators for management.

Currently, scientists can only roughly estimate how many oysters are in the Bay. Compared with other fisheries, our lack of knowledge of the oyster population is startling. To ensure there is a sustainable oyster fishery in the Bay for generations to come, we need to incorporate sound science in our policy decision making. Take action by telling your legislator right now that you think science should play a role in how Maryland manages its oyster harvest.

This Week in the Watershed: Oyster Science, Pennsylvania Headaches, and Osprey Eggs

  • Laws are only as good as their enforcement, as evidenced by the lack of oversight of "mud pollution" leaching from construction sites in Baltimore County. (Bay Journal)
  • Live-streaming webcams are bringing the world of ospreys to life, including a recently installed webcam at CBF's Merrill Center in Annapolis. (Daily Press—MD)
  • A bill in the Maryland legislature to commission a scientific study to determine sustainable harvest rates for Maryland oysters is not without controversy. (Bay Journal)
  • Without a doubt, Pennsylvania has a long way to go in monitoring and regulating pollution from its farms. (WYPR)
  • Fort Detrick in Maryland is attempting to be a model for effective stormwater management. (Frederick News-Post—MD)
  • A controversial proposed development in Maryland has received preliminary approval to move forward despite environmental concerns. (Capital Gazette—MD)
  • A survey of Pennsylvania farmers is attempting to identify how many farmers are implementing best management practices on their farms. (Reading Eagle—PA)
  • We couldn't agree more with this editorial advocating for using science in the management of Maryland's oyster fishery. (Capital Gazette—MD)
  • A recent study by the U.S. Geological Survey revealed that ospreys are faring well despite traces of DDT and other chemicals being found in their eggs. Ospreys have made significant strides since an onslaught of DDT devastated their populations in the 1970s. (Baltimore Sun—MD)
  • Good news out of Maryland, as Governor Hogan signed bills reducing greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030 and restoring funding for a program to preserve open spaces. (Capital Gazette—MD)
  • The rise of raising chickens on an industrial scale on the Eastern Shore of Maryland has made small family farms raising chickens a thing of the past. As residents are finding out, this is not without consequences to clean water and public health. (Baltimore Sun—MD)

What's Happening Around the Watershed?

April 9

  • Frederick, MD: Come plant trees with CBF in Frederick! This project consists of the restoration of approximately 1,500 linear feet of the Little Tuscarora Creek. The stream system has been impacted by cattle in the stream, adjacent row-crop fields input of sediment, and the lack of a riparian buffer. No tree planting experience is necessary, and all materials and supplies are provided. Families and children welcome. Click here to register!

April 14

  • Wrightsville, PA: Join neighbors, businesses, and elected officials for a lively discussion about local clean water issues. This event is open to all residents of the Commonwealth looking to make a difference in their local community and to take action for clean water. This town hall reception will be a forum where local elected officials will address constituents' concerns about water quality in York County. Click here to register!

April 15

  • Spring Mills, PA: CBF's Pennsylvania Restoration Program is partnering with the Clearwater Conservancy to plant trees in a streamside area near Spring Mills, PA. We are looking for volunteers eager to get their hands dirty helping us to plant trees to repair a forested riparian buffer. Click here for more information!

April 16

  • Cambridge, MD: Help CBF make the Choptank River cleaner and safer for the whole community during this river cleanup event. All supplies will be provided. Families and groups are welcome to attend. Click here to register!

April 23

  • Monkton, MD: Come help CBF plant 1,200 trees to restore six acres of forest on this new farm. The Little Gunpowder is a natural reproducing trout stream, and the restoration of this farm will help protect this cold water fishery. No tree planting experience is necessary, and all materials and supplies are provided. Families and children are welcome. Click here to register!
  • Church Hill, MD: Come paddle with us on the Blackwater River in Dorchester County, Maryland. Blackwater River is a prime example of a healthy tidal Eastern Shore river, replete with large expanses of tidal marsh and pine forests. The wildlife is dominated by various species of bird life, including nesting bald eagles, ospreys, herons, and ducks. The paddle is comfortable and peaceful, offering up-close views of herons fishing in the shallows and ducks nesting in the many trees along the banks. All canoes and paddling equipment will be provided. Children ages 10 and up are welcome to register, but must be accompanied by an adult. This is a paddle for people of all skill levels. Click here to register!

April 24

  • Annapolis, MD: Check out the 2016 Earth-Water-Faith Festival—a fun, family-friendly, interactive, interfaith celebration of Earth Day. Enjoy live music from Third Sunday Band, The Harmonic Fifth, and The All Children's Chorus of Annapolis, as well as activities including a "Scales and Tales" animal program, an oyster water-filtering display, kids' T-shirt printing, and celebratory readings. Free and open to the public! Click here for more information!

 —Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate


April Is Oyster Month!

OysterQuiz2016_500x261We all know oysters are awesome. They filter our water; they provide important habitat and protection from storms; and they are delicious.

So this month, just as we're launching into our oyster restoration season, we're celebrating everything there is to love about our favorite mollusk.

You can take part in the celebration by:

Whatever you chose to do, we hope you'll take some time this month to appreciate and give thanks to these brilliant bivalves! They truly are amazing.

—Emmy Nicklin
CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media

 


Hogan Administration Calls to Suspend Oyster Restoration

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A healthy oyster reef. Photo by Dave Harp.

Just as oysters are staging a comeback, Governor Hogan's Administration has moved to suspend oyster restoration.

As reported after Christmas by the Star Democrat, the Hogan Administration asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to cease its already agreed to oyster restoration efforts on the Tred Avon River. Reportedly, at the request of certain watermen, the Hogan Administration no longer wants the Army Corps to follow through with restoration work underway, but instead wants to cease all work and wait for the results of a pending study before deciding if it will move forward with the restoration.

Deferring to the Hogan Administration request, the Army Corps agreed to the delay, the Star Democrat reported Jan. 7. The action will stall one of the biggest restoration projects in the state likely for more than a year.

We know the Hogan Administration wants to help commercial oyster harvesters. So do we. Based on available science, we firmly believe that restoration efforts are improving wild oyster production and harvest.

The restoration planned for Tred Avon will benefit everyone, boosting oyster reproduction, attracting fish, and cleaning currently heavily polluted water. Oysters are a common resource to be protected for all—not just for one group's economic gain.  

We understand the watermen's concerns. Generally, they oppose the creation of sanctuary areas like the Tred Avon where they can't harvest. It is worth noting that a University of Maryland study a few years ago called for a complete closure of the fishery as a conservation measure. In deference to watermen, Maryland maintains 76 percent of all oyster bars open to harvest, and we support that.

And even with the sanctuaries in place, harvest increased five-fold over the last five years. The 24 percent of bars that are closed as sanctuaries should stay that way to provide important ecological benefits, to help build the population, and to stabilize the fishery.

As reported by the Star Democrat, a handful of watermen leaders convinced the governor to delay the Tred Avon project with "new data" on the effectiveness of restoration efforts. 

 The first problem with this delay request is no "new data" exist. The state's fall oyster survey is still being analyzed, and no data are yet available even to state managers. According to the Corps of Engineers, what information is available indicates restoration has, "resulted in healthy oyster populations and reef habitat." 

The delay of the Tred Avon work also violates consensus. In designing the project, the Army Corps was sensitive to local concerns. The Corps even modified the plans last year to satisfy local watermen. The watermen and the Hogan Administration were part of the consensus and agreed to this modification. Asking now to stop the project entirely, goes against the consensus decision and disregards an open public process.

The biggest concern we have with this delay request is that it reveals a bias by the Hogan Administration against restoring oysters on sanctuary bars. If the administration believes work related to oysters should wait until the five-year review of Maryland's oyster plan is finished in July, why wouldn't the administration call for a delay in ALL parts of Maryland's oyster plan, including oyster harvesting? 

Oysters are making such an encouraging comeback now, leading to cleaner, healthier waters. But these water-filtering, reef-building bivalves still face considerable challenges. Political moves designed to appease a small minority opposed to oyster sanctuaries shouldn’t be another hurdle oysters need to overcome.  

To delay oyster restoration based on unsubstantiated data is not in Maryland's best interest. The majority of Marylanders want oyster restoration work to continue.

—Bill Goldsborough 
CBF's Director of Fisheries

Stand up for our oysters! Click here to send a message to the Hogan Administration.


This Week in the Watershed

We love oysters. These water-filtering, reef-building bivalves can filter as much as 50 gallons of water a day as an adult (check out the video above!).

Despite at one point falling to one percent of historical levels, oysters are making a comeback. This comeback however, is not without obstacles. Recently, Governor Hogan's administration asked the Army Corps of Engineers to delay its oyster restoration project on the Tred Avon River.

Reportedly, at the request of certain watermen, the Hogan Administration wants to wait for the results of a pending study before deciding if oyster restoration will moved forward. This action could delay one of the biggest restoration projects in the state for more than a year. We know the Hogan Administration wants to help commercial oyster harvesters. So do we. But based on available science, we firmly believe that restoration efforts are improving wild oyster production and harvest, and these efforts should not stop.

Let Governor Hogan know that halting oyster restoration is not in the best interest of Marylanders. 

 This Week in the Watershed: Oyster Delay, Clean Water Funding, and Sick Fish

  • Kudos to Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe for proposing major investments in clean water measures, such as fencing livestock out of streams, upgrading water treatment plants, and boosting the state's commercial oyster harvest. (Daily Press—VA)
  • Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection has received a funding increase for the first time in seven years. The increase is not as much as Governor Wolf was hoping for, however. (Central Pennsylvania Business Journal—PA)
  • Representatives from all nine Maryland Eastern Shore counties have developed an action plan to restore their local rivers and streams and the Chesapeake Bay. (Kent County News—MD)
  • CBF's Director of Fisheries Bill Goldsborough, weighs in on the importance of menhaden in this article. (Bay Journal)
  • Smallmouth bass in the Susquehanna River are suffering from poor water quality, primarily from hormone-altering compounds and herbicides. (Bay Journal)
  • On December 24, Maryland's Department of Natural Resources, under direction from the Hogan Administration, asked the Army Corps of Engineers to delay their oyster restoration project on Tred Avon River. (Baltimore Sun—MD) Bonus: CBF Statement.
  • Virginia's Legislative Session starts next week! There are several programs we're asking legislators to support in the the 2016 Virginia General Assembly to clean Virginia's rivers and streams and the Chesapeake Bay.

What's Happening Around the Watershed?

January 14-16

  • College Park, MD: Join Future Harvest CASA for their 17th annual Cultivate the Chesapeake Foodshed conference. One of the region's largest farm and food gatherings, you'll be able to experience seven different conference tracks, interact with other farmers and food lovers, and enjoy local fare. Click here to register!

January 16-February 6

  • Across Virginia: Help restore the health of the Chesapeake Bay and Virginia's rivers by participating in CBF's Grasses for the Masses program. Participants grow wild celery, a type of underwater grass, in their homes for 10-12 weeks. After 10-12 weeks of growing, participants will gather to plant their grasses in select local rivers to bolster grass populations and help restore the Bay. Workshops are being held throughout Virginia. Click here to find one near you!

Stay Tuned!

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate


Why I Give

Today, in honor of Giving Tuesday—a global movement dedicated to giving back–we spoke with Perk Perkins, CEO of The Orvis Company, about why he and his company give back to help Save the Bay and the rivers and streams that feed it. Here's what he had to say: 


PerksBioAs an individual concerned with the welfare of our environment, part of what I find so impressive about CBF is their accountability. Their annual State of the Bay report spells out their progress and pitfalls with a scorecard model that serves as an example for other non-profits.

As a corporation helping to fund CBF's restoration efforts, we find them to be extraordinarily engaged and responsive. They work closely with the Orvis team to amplify their message, and leverage our funding in innovative and substantial ways. 

Orvis takes great pride partnering with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation in their outstanding efforts to improve the tenuous health of the Bay. 

Saving the Bay is a tall order, but with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, we feel confident we can make a difference.

—Perk Perkins
CEO, The Orvis Company, Inc.

Show your love of the Bay and its rivers and streams just like Orvis by giving back on this Giving Tuesday.


New Home on the Shore!

12241779_10153626730260943_4095302690820372387_nMore than 200 people came out to the new Eastern Shore Conservation Center in Easton last Wednesday evening for our oyster expo!

The dust is still settling, but the Maryland Eastern Shore Office team is officially moved in to our new home at the Eastern Shore Conservation Center in Easton, Maryland!

EasternShore-1The 23,0000-square-foot building complex is a LEED certified retrofit of an abandoned industrial facility built in the 1920s. Eastern Shore Land Conservancy (ESLC) bought and renovated the place with a vision to co-locate non-profit conservation and community groups in a downtown transitional neighborhood. It's smart growth and community development on steroids. Tenants currently include ESLC, CBF, The Nature Conservancy, Ducks Unlimited, Town Creek Foundation, and The Oaks of Mamre Interfaith Library and Graduate Center. 

The move came just in time, too! Last week, we kicked off our opening through an oyster expo celebrating all the amazing oyster restoration work happening on the Shore and around the Bay. More than 200 people came out to feast on fantastic food and drink, sample oysters provided by Hoopers Island Oyster Aquaculture Company, and learn about these incredible creatures of the Chesapeake.  

Next time you're in Easton, come out and see us!

—Alan Girard, CBF's Eastern Shore MD Director

Read more about the center on page three of our newsletter here

Our new address is:
114 S. Washington St., Suite 103, Easton, MD  21601


Tommy Leggett Retires After 17 Years

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Tommy sharing his deep knowledge and love of oysters. Photos by CBF Staff.

After more than 17 years with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Virginia Oyster Restoration and Fisheries Scientist Tommy Leggett retired this month to focus on his aquaculture business, Chessie Seafood and Aquafarms. During his tenure at CBF, Tommy was instrumental in both establishing native oyster aquaculture in Virginia as well as implementing restoration programs that have planted tens of millions of oysters into the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.

"Tommy is one of the first champions of oyster aquaculture, and much of his life's work has been dedicated to ensuring the success of the oyster industry. He has helped to revive a resource that collapsed during his lifetime," says CBF Virginia Oyster Restoration Manager Jackie Shannon. "It has given me a great sense of pride to work side by side with him. Tommy truly embodies the American spirit. He is a pioneer and entrepreneur. He is a dedicated spouse, father, and grandfather. He lives by the tides, gets his hands dirty, and takes immense pride in his work."

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Tommy sizing up an oyster.

At CBF, Tommy built and ran the Virginia Oyster Restoration Center, which conducted restoration projects throughout Virginia in collaboration with numerous partners and stakeholders. In addition to working on efforts to rebuild the native oyster population, Tommy and his colleagues have helped watermen start their own aquaculture operations, led impactful decision-maker trips on water quality issues, played a key role in defeating a Virginia Senate resolution to support the introduction of the non-native oyster, informed smart and balanced oyster fisheries management and restoration policy, and worked with nearly 400 volunteers on oyster restoration projects.

When Tommy joined CBF in 1998, he already had nearly two decades' experience as a self-employed commercial waterman. He also had the credentials to back-up his on-the-water experience, having earned a master's degree from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, School of Marine Science of the College of William and Mary, as well as a bachelor's degree in biology from Old Dominion University. "Tommy has always understood the pressures on the industry and used this knowledge to help formulate informed, empathetic, and well-rounded decisions on oyster restoration," says CBF Virginia Acting Director Christy Everett.

Over the years, Tommy has served on numerous shellfish-related boards, committees, and sub-committees. Those include the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, the Potomac Fisheries Commission, and the Virginia Marine Products Board. He has also been President and Vice President of the Working Watermen's Association, Vice President of the East Coast Shellfish Growers Association, and held memberships at the Virginia Seafood Council, the Virginia Shellfish Growers Association, and the Tidewater Oyster Gardeners Association.

Tommy never shied away from sharing his knowledge with others, and has been a mentor, colleague, and friend to so many across the Chesapeake watershed. We wish him the best as he continues his day-to-day oyster farming work.

—Kenny Fletcher, CBF's Virginia Communications Coordinator

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Tommy checking out a reef ball in the Lafayette River in Norfolk.