Volunteers build oyster beds in St. Lucie River

By Nancy Mcarthy
Your News contributor

On May 14, more than 70 volunteers across all age groups formed an oyster bag assembly line to disperse more than 1,700 bags of oyster cultch in the St. Lucie River as part of the Oyster Reef Restoration Project spearheaded by Martin County .

The deployment event was the culmination of a two-month effort where volunteers placed over 20,000 pounds of cultch(fossilized shell and limestone rock, which are hard materials designed to provide points of attachment for oysters) into bags in preparation for deployment in the river.

The bags of oyster cultch will provide habitat for oysters to colonize in the river – creating a natural filtration system that will help restore the river’s ecological health.

“This community does not take its waterways for granted – we’ve seen a great deal of participation in the project which has been integral to its success,” Martin County Coastal Engineer Kathy FitzPatrick said.

This effort is part of the nearshore component of the Oyster Reef Restoration Project that began in 2009 with funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration with the goal of placing about 30 million pounds of cultch within the St. Lucie Estuary and the Northwest Fork of the Loxahatchee River to provide critically needed habitat so that oysters can repopulate the estuaries.

This nearshore phase of the Oyster Reef Restoration Project also entails collecting used oyster, clam and mussel shells from local restaurants that will be bagged by volunteers and used to create inshore oyster reefs. New mangrove and other suitable shoreline plantings will also be placed inshore of some of the restored reefs, reducing shoreline erosion and resulting in less sediment deposits in the estuaries.

This educational website has been created to keep the public informed and updated on the progress of the restoration efforts.

For more information, contact The Oyster Reef Restoration Hotline at 772-221-1387.

This story has been edited for space. For the full story, go to TCPalm.com/YourNews.

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The Oyster Reef Restoration Project | 772-221-1387 | info@oysterrestoration.com

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