Reef Project Will Improve Habitat and Fishing in Tangier Sound

(Frederick, Maryland) – In an effort to restore marine habitat while improving fishing opportunities for recreational fisherman in the Chesapeake Bay, Coastal Conservation Association’s (CCA’s) national marine habitat program, the Building Conservation Trust (BCT), has partnered with CCA Maryland, the Maryland Artificial Reef Initiation (MARI), Rinker Materials and Engel Coolers to add nearly four hundred tons of concrete structure to the Tangier Sound reef site.

With the renewal of MARI’s 10-year permit from the Army Corps of Engineers this past summer, partners were able to complete the planning for the first placement of pre-cast concrete pipe materials on MARI’s Tangier Sound reef site. Through the generous support of Rinker Materials in Frederick, Maryland, 21 tractor trailer trucks, more than several hundred tons, of pre-cast concrete pipe sections were transported to Smith Brothers, Inc. marine yard in Galesville, Maryland.

“The construction of the Tangier Sound reef off the shore of Crisfield, Maryland is an exciting project that will help sustain a well-rounded environment and foster a healthy habitat for robust marine life,” said Sean Stone, BCT’s Executive Director. “We would like to give a big thanks to MARI for their ongoing efforts to bolster habitat, and we look forward to continuing to work with the committee to enhance more Chesapeake Bay habitat.”

The Building Conservation Trust was created in 2013 as the national marine habitat program of Coastal Conservation Association. BCT is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization exclusively dedicated to providing funding for local, state and national fisheries, habitat conservation and restoration projects. BCT has created a model for the successful collaboration of business, non-profit organizations and government agencies to revitalize critical habitat and establish a vibrant foundation for the marine ecosystem.

The Maryland Artificial Reef Program was established to build, maintain, and monitor artificial reefs in order to restore reef habitat and increase fishing opportunities for anglers, and currently manages 22 reef sites throughout Chesapeake Bay. Building artificial reefs is one way to restore critical reef habitat that has been significantly reduced from historic levels by centuries of oyster harvesting and increasing sedimentation rates. The Tangier Sound reef is a 98-acre triangular site located approximately 5.5 miles southwest of Crisfield, MD, just north of the VA border. The depth is 30-35’ and the bottom is mostly firm sand. Existing reef materials include concrete rubble and rip-rap and concrete slabs from the Woodrow Wilson Bridge demolition. “This site is one of MARI’s most diverse sites.” Said Michael Malpezzi, Artificial Reef Coordinator for Maryland DNR. “Unfortunately, it’s also very remote, so deployments tend to be expensive and therefore infrequent. The matching funds, time, and materials provided by CCA Maryland/BCT, Rinker Materials, and Engel Coolers are what make this kind of project possible. It’s a great example of what can be accomplished with these types of collaborations.”

The addition of new reef structure like this provides an amazing habitat for a variety of marine life and creates a fantastic recreational destination for sport and commercial fishermen, as well as scuba divers. “The deployment of another reef project continues to create vital marine habitat essential for improving the health of the bay while also improving the fishing for recreational anglers” said J.R. Whitsell, CCA Maryland’s Habitat Committee Vice Chairperson. “We are grateful for the generosity of Rinker Materials, who have stepped up to the plate to support important marine habitat restoration projects like this.”

Marine contractor Smith Brothers, Inc. from Galesville, Maryland was awarded the contract for construction of the new reef which will expand the network of individual reefs already throughout the Tangier Sound site.  Smith Brothers hopes to have all the material in place by early February.  The design of the concrete structure allows it duplicate naturally occurring habitat by providing hard substrate for larvae to adhere too. This process is necessary to the basic formation of a live-bottom community of invertebrates, like filter-feeding oysters, which quickly colonize and inhabit almost every square inch of reef structures.

BCT and CCA Maryland have rolled out a number of other habitat initiatives in recent months, including the ongoing Living Reef Action Campaign project, which utilizes concrete Reef Balls to restore oyster reefs in the Chesapeake Bay while engaging school students across Maryland in STEM-related learning activities. BCT projects in other states include The Fripp Island Reef which involves several deck barges, armored personnel carriers and more than 200 concrete habitat modules, as well as the Fantasy Island Reef in Tampa Bay, which is enhancing oyster habitat and stabilizing roughly 700 feet of shoreline on the island.

For more information about CCA Maryland’s habitat work in the Chesapeake Bay, contact Rick Elyar at relyar@www.ccamd.org. Learn more by visiting CCA Maryland’s habitat website at www.ccamdhabitat.com and BCT’s website at www.buildingconservation.org.

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