Friends of the Rappahannock (FOR) has been working with a multitude of partners for over a year to actualize an amazing restoration project as a part of our Student Stream Team (SST) program. On October 20-22, the year-long effort was realized as over 40 students from the Glenn’s Campus of the Chesapeake Bay Governor’s School (CBGS) worked with staff from FOR and Ready Reef Inc. to install two restoration projects in the Town of Urbanna.The FOR SST program is designed to balance a myriad of in-class activities and lessons focused on environmental science and the Chesapeake Bay with a series on outdoor restoration projects. After a year of planning, permitting, site visits, assessments, and in-class lessons, we were excited to get the students outside for the project installation.

The project was led by Sara Beam with the CBGS, FOR Tidal River Steward Richard Moncure, FOR Programs Manager Bryan Hofmann, and Chris Davis, owner of Ready Reef Inc., a local marine contractor that specializes in the design and construction of 3D oyster reef structures. Special thanks to funding from the Virginia Environmental Endowment, Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund, Dominion Foundation, and several other donors for supporting SST and making this project possible.

Over the course of two mornings, the students performed an amazing array of environmental Assessments, including water quality testing, vegetation assessments, and species counts on the oyster structures. They received a one-of-a-kind lesson on Virginia’s oyster industry, the history of oysters, and their importance to the River and Chesapeake Bay for habitat, water quality, and local economy. After the background was
delivered and understood, the real fun began.

Students squeezed into their waders, put on gloves, and began to unload and install the 3D concrete oyster reefs in a well-oiled assembly line. Each structure weighs approximately 100 pounds, so teams of students carefully removed the structures from the trailers and then waded out to the reef area to place them in a specific place and pattern. As they were unloaded, students took inventory of the number of oyster spat (baby oysters) that were present on the structures. This data collection is important and will help show the growth and success of the reefs as the students monitor them over the next several years. After two days of work we successfully installed 31 structures! Each structure will eventually be home to about 100 oysters.
Each oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water per day which equates to a brand-new, all-natural reef that can filter 155,000 gallons of water each day!

The second half of the project was the living shoreline. Over time, natural banks and shorelines can experience erosion resulting from a variety of stressors including wave
energy, human impact, and
removal of vegetation. Living shorelines are the preferred method for shoreline restoration in Virginia. FOR worked with students to identify 25 linear feet of shoreline at the town marina, which was
experiencing erosion and was a suitable area for restoration.

In the spring, students took
survey measurements to inform the design of the project. Using a unique piece of machinery known as the Filtrexx Mini-fx, students created 75 feet of biologs filled with sand, pea-gravel, and compost. These logs were placed along the shoreline and stacked to meet the upland grade. We staked the logs in and then planted them with native grass plugs. This type of project is designed to control erosion, reestablish wetland vegetation, and can even work to remove nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus from the water cycle.
We are always looking for new partners, projects, and schools to include in our SST program. For additional
information please contact FOR Programs Manager Bryan Hofmann.

By Bryan Hofmann, FOR Programs Manager

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