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Dam Removal Benefits Fish … and Oysters

Ever wonder what happens to all that rubble after a dam is removed? The concrete has to go somewhere—so we’re using cannons to shoot it back into the water!

Last year, NOAA and American Rivers removed the Simkins dam, which originally blocked more than 22 miles of habitat for migratory fish. While the dam removal helped provide access to habitat for fish, the concrete from the former dam is now being reused to help provide habitat for oysters in the Chesapeake Bay. Now that’s resourceful!

With funding from NOAA, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation is shooting the concrete off the back of a barge into the water at the mouth of the Chester River. The concrete will form a two-acre reef for oysters to grow in this bay tributary.

"People hear about dam demolition and they think waste. This is recycling at its best," said Stephanie Westby, oyster restoration manager for NOAA. "It's a win for the fish in the upper Patapsco and a win for the fish in the bay."

Soon, the Foundation will plant four million baby oysters on the new reef. The new reef will provide habitat for oysters, as well as for juvenile fish. Only 1 percent of historic oyster populations still exist in the Chesapeake Bay—their populations have been decimated by overharvesting, pollution, and other human impacts. But these reefs are important to the Bay and its communities: they filter pollutants out of the water and provide a valuable resource for the economy.

Posted November 8,2011

Deep-Sea Coral
Water cannons shoot concrete off a barge to create oyster habitat.