Harris Creek Oyster Sanctuary

Background

In 2010 Governor O'Malley unveiled Maryland's new oyster plan, which established large oyster sanctuaries closed to harvest. The goals of Maryland's oyster plan agreed well with President Obama's Executive Order 13508, "Chesapeake Bay Protection and Restoration," which called for the restoration of oysters in 20 Chesapeake Bay tributaries by 2025. NOAA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are the federal agencies charged with advancing this goal. Furthermore, the Army Corps Native Oyster Restoration Master Plan calls for larger scale oyster restoration to achieve greater ecosystem benefits.

Harris Creek Oyster Sanctuary

Because of the similar oyster restoration goals of the state and federal agencies, the Chesapeake Bay Program's Sustainable Fisheries Goal Implementation Team convened a Maryland interagency workgroup consisting of DNR, NOAA, and the Army Corps to plan restoration work in consultation with appropriate partners. Based on water quality, available restorable bottom, protection from harvest, and historical spat set, the Maryland Interagency Workgroup selected Harris Creek, a tributary on the north shore of the Choptank River, as its first tributary for intensive oyster restoration. The draft restoration plan for Harris Creek may be found here.

Harris Creek Location Map

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Existing Conditions

Before restoration of Harris Creek could begin, it was necessary to collect baseline data to determine the pre-restoration state of the oyster population and habitat. Maryland Geological Survey conducted an initial side-scan sonar survey to determine the condition and extent of oyster habitat. NOAA conducted additional ground-truthing and multi-beam sonar surveys to refine the bottom classification. Population surveys funded by NOAA and were conducted by Versar, Inc. and Dr. Ken Paynter and colleagues of the University of Maryland. The Maryland Interagency Workgroup used these baseline habitat and population data to develop the restoration plan for Harris Creek, determining areas that meet restoration goals as defined by the Oyster Metrics Team, areas that need oyster seed, and areas that need both substrate and seed.

Click here to view current Harris Creek water quality monitoring.

Harris Creek Oyster Sanctuary
Harris Creek Oyster Sanctuary
Existing Conditions Bottom Type
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Existing Conditions Oyster Density
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Potential Oyster Restoration Sites

Potential Oyster Restoration Sites
Potential Oyster Restoration Sites
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Please note that the data used to create this map are preliminary. We are still analyzing data, and obtaining new data; boundaries may change slightly to reflect the most accurate available data and regulatory constraints.


Blue: These areas have some shell already, and some locations have low densities of live oysters. We are primarily interested in adding seed to these areas, but we may

Yellow: These areas are hard bottom, but there are no shell or live oysters here. Oysters may have existed here historically. We are interested in re-constructing reefs here using substrate such as shell, granite, crushed concrete or reef balls, and then planting juvenile oysters on them.

Orange: The Corps of Engineers constructed shell and granite oyster reefs here in 2012, and ORP seeded them with juvenile oysters.

Green: These areas currently meet the minimum restoration goal of having at least 15 live oysters per square meter of bottom. More juvenile oysters may be added to these areas to bring them up to the desired target of 50 oysters per square meter.




Restoration Progress

Harris Creek Oyster Sanctuary Restoration Progress
Restoration Progress
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2011:
  • 1.5 acres of shell reef constructed (DNR)
  • 33 acres seeded (Oyster Recovery Partnership, with funding from NOAA and DNR)
2012:
  • 22 acres new reef constructed (Army Corps)
  • 97 acres seeded (Oyster Recovery Partnership, with funding from NOAA and DNR)
2013 (planned):
  • 33 acres to be constructed (Army Corps)
  • 97 acres to be planted (Oyster Recovery Partnership, with funding from NOAA and DNR)
  • $7M to construct 160 acres of reef, in water 2013 (DNR)
Summary:
  • Currently about 1/3 of the way toward the 300 acre minimum goal
  • End of 2013: may complete substrate goal


Contacts and Partners

  • Maryland Department of Natural Resources


    Eric Weissberger
    MD Department of Natural Resources, Fisheries Service
    580 Taylor Ave. B-2,
    Annapolis, MD 21401
    410-260-8344 or
    eweissberger@dnr.state.md.us
  • US Army Corp of Engineers

    Claire D. O'Neill
    U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,
    Baltimore District
    P.O. Box 1715,
    Baltimore MD 21203-1715
    410-962-0876 or
    claire.d.o'neill@usace.army.mil
  • NOAA

    Stephanie Reynolds Westby
    NOAA Restoration Center,
    Chesapeake Bay
    410 Seven Ave, Suite 107A,
    Annapolis, MD 21403
    410-295-3153 or
    stephanie.westby@noaa.gov
UMCES Oyster Recovery Partnership