Plans to drop rubble from the soon-to-be-demolished old Severn River Bridge into the water to create an oyster reef are back on track.
Officials at the state Board of Public Works revised permits late Tuesday, eliminating a crucial time restriction that threatened to kill the experimental conservation project, said William Moulden, the Sherwood Forest naturalist who devised the project.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources' tidal wetlands permit, issued in July, stipulated no work could take place between Oct. 1 and March 31, so as not to disturb migratory birds who use the area as a stopover. The 3-month bridge demolition is scheduled to start at the end of this month, and the timing threatened to kill the project.
But this week, DNR officials said the concentrations of the waterfowl in the area surrounding the bridge were sparse and should not stand in the way of the oyster project.
Oysters, whose population in the Chesapeake Bay has been devastated by disease and silt, need a hard surface to grow on. Mr. Moulden's innovative project is designed to create an oyster bed that will help naturally purify water and attract fish, while also serving as a pilot program for studying artificial reefs and aquaculture.
Children in his Sherwood Forest naturalist program would start the oysters in a tank, and eventually move them onto the reef.
State Highway Administration officials said they were pleased everything could be worked out.
Getting oysters on the new reef is starting to look unlikely this season because the water is not salty enough, Mr. Moulden said. The salinity of the water needs to be at least 8 parts per thousand. With so many storms this summer, the salinity is down to about 6.5 parts per thousand, he said.