RICHMOND — A federal plan to restore the native oyster to the Chesapeake Bay identifies 24 tributaries in Virginia and Maryland that provide the best potential to bring back a coveted hard-shell that once was so bountiful its beds were exposed at low tide.
The plan was prepared by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as part of the federally directed effort to restore the environmentally battered estuary, the nation's largest. It concludes that 14 tributaries in Maryland and 10 in Virginia offer the best hope of restoring the oyster.
The tributary restoration and the creation of sanctuaries wouldn't be cheap to achieve: The Army Corps estimates the cost of building oyster beds, seeding and managing them ranges up to billions of dollars.
Oyster restoration experts said Monday the plan is ambitious, but worthwhile considering the hard-shell's role in the bay's health.
Oysters help filter bay waters and provide work for watermen whose numbers have declined, and their reefs provide habitat for hundreds of other species. Like blue crabs and other marine life, the bay's native oyster populations were devastated by overharvesting, loss of habitat and disease.
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