Maryland approves oyster-reef restoration plan

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The state of Maryland is moving forward with a plan to restore native oyster reefs in Chesapeake Bay, a move that new studies show will naturally clean up the waterways.

On Wednesday, Gov. Martin O’Malley and the state Board of Public Works approved a $31 million plan to restore 371 acres of oyster bars along the bottom of Harris Creek in Talbot County, according to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources website.

Maryland is providing $21 million for the Harris Creek project, with the Army Corps of Engineers and NOAA contributing $7.4 million and $4 million, respectively.

A new study showed that a reef seeded by oysters removed 20 times more nitrogen pollution from material such as home lawn and farm fertilizer in one year than a nearby site that had not been seeded.

Lisa Kellogg, a researcher for the Virginia Institute of Marine Science who led the 4-year study, told news outlets that oyster reefs potentially could remove nearly half of the nitrogen pollution from the Choptank River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. A wider restoration could help clean Chesapeake Bay, where the Choptank and other major rivers drain.

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