World’s largest oyster restoration completed on Piankatank River

Two more Virginia rivers meet Chesapeake Bay oyster restoration goals
Granite rock is placed in the Piankatank River to create oyster reef.
Granite rock is placed in the Piankatank River to create oyster reef.(Patrick Bloodgood/ U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)
Published: Dec. 1, 2021 at 11:22 AM EST
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‘Tis the season for champagne and oysters — and nowhere is more flush with the beloved bivalve than Virginia’s Piankatank River.

With more than 438 acres of restored oyster reef, the Piankatank is home to what Nature Conservancy Virginia Chesapeake Bay Program Director Andy Lacatell says is “the largest completed oyster restoration project on the planet.”

On Tuesday, Gov. Ralph Northam marked the state’s achievement of oyster restoration goals in both the Piankatank and Great Wicomico rivers as part of its broader effort to meet the commitments of the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement.

“We’re recognizing that natural resources are infrastructure and they need to be taken care of just like we would roads or buildings,” said Northam.

Oysters have proved a popular rallying point in efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, the nation’s largest estuary.

“Water quality and fish is really what it boils down to,” said Lacatell. “Oysters improve water quality, and they provide habitat for fish and crabs and other critters that are both recreationally and commercially important.”

Given the species’ importance, the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, signed by six watershed states, Washington, D.C., the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Chesapeake Bay Commission, called for the restoration of native oyster habitat and populations in 10 bay tributaries by 2025.

Of those, Virginia and Maryland each assumed responsibility for restoring half of the tributaries, with Virginia targeting the Great Wicomico, Piankatank, lower York, Lafayette and Lynnhaven rivers. Northam voluntarily added the Eastern Branch of the Elizabeth River to Virginia’s list last year, while the General Assembly approved the governor’s proposal to devote $10 million in capital spending under the state’s biennial budget to reef construction.

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.(Virginia Mercury)

The Virginia Mercury is a new, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.

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