Coalition aims for bay full of rubble

Construction waste to be bought, then dumped for reefs

January 10, 2007|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,Sun reporter

Thirty groups, including fishing clubs and oil companies, have formed a coalition to help the state build more fish and oyster reefs.

The Maryland Artificial Reef Initiative will use charitable contributions and grants to buy used construction materials and have them hauled to Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean sites to enhance aquatic habitat.

"This is an unprecedented partnership using private and public funds to restore marine habitat in Maryland," said Martin Gary, coordinator of the program for the Department of Natural Resources. "We can create islands of life around the Chesapeake and the Atlantic Ocean."

Over the years, oyster bars - the hard-bottom areas of the bay - have been smothered by a thick blanket of silt. So Maryland built 20 artificial bay reefs before funding dried up in the mid-1990s. Ten reefs were built near Ocean City.

Last fall, a $38,000 state pilot program paid for 4,000 tons of concrete from the old Woodrow Wilson Bridge to be dumped at Point No Point, a fishing area just off St. Mary's County. Already, the new reef is being used by fish, oysters and mussels, underwater cameras show.

When the state money ran out before the Wilson Bridge material did, private groups agreed to assist with fundraising.

Nancy Petersen, a philanthropist who lives in southern Anne Arundel County, gave the first contribution of $100,000, with BP Oil and Shell Oil companies and Honeywell Corp. adding to the pot.

The public can "Buy a Ton" of bridge by making a tax-deductible contribution of $25 on the Coastal Conservation Association Maryland Web site. Also, the Maryland Sportsmen's Legislative Caucus will be asking state lawmakers to approve $1 million in general funds or a bond issue to support the program.

Mike Baker of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Project said that although the cost of turning rubble into reef is triple the cost of using the debris on-site for fill or temporary roads, the chance to be involved in bay stewardship with the coalition was appealing. He estimates another 30,000 tons of bridge material is available.

Del. Sue Kullen a Calvert County Democrat and member of the sportsmen's caucus, said $1 million from the state makes economic sense because the bay "is good for tourism, for the charter industry, for tackle shops and for marinas."

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