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NRCS making $260K available for Virginia reef restoration

oyster beds
More oysters below means cleaner water above and a more vibrant Virginia shellfish aquaculture industry. Photo courtesy Virginia Institute of Marine Science.

A new opportunity from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service could help reconstitute the ongoing effort to restore oyster beds on private shellfish grounds in the state’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay.

In 2011, NRCS embarked on a journey with the Virginia Marine Resources Commission and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science to help bring back native oysters lost to over-harvesting, disease and degraded habitat.

Beds that lay dormant for decades are now being returned to service to support spat-on-shell production and a growing population of the bivalves, fish and other wildlife.

In the past three years alone, the agency provided $776,284 in financial assistance through a Regional Conservation Partnership Program project to support tidal bottom restoration on leased beds.

When that project ended, the commitment to Virginia oyster growers continued with the agency now making $260,000 available through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program to sustain these efforts.

“Virginia watermen are farmers, too,” NRCS State Conservationist Dr. Edwin Martinez Martinez. “They take much the same risks and work hard to bring in good yields that will sustain them another year. We are proud to continue this partnership to provide these producers with the financial and technical assistance they need to maintain their operations while also supporting long-term improvements in Bay water quality.”

Producers who receive services from the Accomac, Chesapeake, Gloucester, Quinton, Smithfield, Tappahannock and Warsaw NRCS service centers may be eligible to participate in this project.

Interested individuals must submit a signed VMRC pre-approval form and complete an application with NRCS by May 7 to be considered for funding in FY2021.

For more information on EQIP and Virginia RCPP projects, visit www.va.nrcs.usda.gov.

To learn more about VMRC projects and activities, visit mrc.virginia.gov/shellfish_aquaculture.shtm.

For information concerning shellfish aquaculture at VIMS, visit www.vims.edu/research/units/centerspartners/map/aquaculture/index.php


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