NAS Patuxent River, MD - In a unique partnership between the Navy and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, more than 1,000 feet of shoreline was restored along the St. Mary's River at the Naval Air Station Patuxent River's Webster Field annex in southern Maryland, June 14.
More than 120 volunteers from NOAA joined the Navy in planting 54 trays of underwater grasses, installing 5,400 wetland plants, distributing 100 bags of native oysters and removing invasive species from the water's edge. This was the latest phase in a shoreline restoration project led by the Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Washington that won a Coastal America Partnership award last year.
"This is a great partnership," said Donald Schregardus, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Installations & Environment). "It's very important work that will really mean a lot." Schregardus and Timothy Keeney, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce (Oceans and Atmosphere), joined the volunteers in digging up phragmites (an invasive weed that is detrimental to wildlife), cleaning up debris from the shoreline, setting oysters in the reef and planting underwater grasses. All of these activities contribute to stabilizing the shoreline and improving water quality and habitat in the St. Mary's River, which is an important tributary to the Chesapeake Bay.
"A part of the overall restoration effort was a demonstration project to see how we can combine force protection elements with habitat," said Tommy Wright, NAVFAC Washington Natural Resources Specialist. NAVFAC built an oyster reef along a small section of shoreline using large boulders, rocks and oyster shell. "In this time of terrorist threats to our facilities, we can go out and extend the protection out into the water but at the same time we can create habitat."
The project began two years ago with the installation of stone breakwaters and the oyster reef. Last year, volunteers from the National Aquarium in Baltimore and the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay partnered with the Environmental Department of NAS Patuxent River, NAVFAC Washington, St. Mary's County Soil Conservation District and the Southern Maryland Resource Conservation and Development Board to stabilize the shoreline, install oyster reefs and plant more than 30,500 units of marsh grasses.
Some of the most pristine pieces of land and waterline belong to the Navy. "It makes sense for us to partner with the community and protect these assets," said Wright. "After all, we live here too."
The Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) manages the planning, design, construction, contingency engineering, real estate, environmental, and public works support for U. S. Navy shore facilities around the world. We provide the Navy's forces with the operating, expeditionary, support and training bases they need. NAVFAC is a global organization with an annual volume of business in excess of $7.6 billion. As a major Navy Systems Command and an integral member of the Navy and Marine Corps team, NAVFAC delivers timely and effective facilities engineering solutions worldwide.