Great Idea: Oyster Banks as Water Quality Mitigation in Chesapeake bay

It’s not not every day that you come across an excellent common sense idea addressing one of the most vexing problems in your industry; in this case, how to efficiently and reliably remove pollution from the Chesapeake Bay. Paul Calamita, an environmental attorney in Richmond, Virginia, had a letter in today’s Baltimore Sun [Bay needs more oysters, not more enforcement] suggesting that the deliberate and regulated banking of oyster restoration to improve water quality could be employed to  yield “Oyster Credits”  representing improvement in water quality.  These credits could then be used as currency in water regulation.

Entrepreneurial Oyster Farming in Xiamen, China

If I understand his short note correctly — or even if not — that’s a pretty good idea. Oyster establishment and maintenance could be easily quantified and verified, and I suspect the effectiveness of oysters as water quality machines is well established. Versus some of the “squirrelly” Best Management Practices (BMP’s) used to control and abate non-point source pollution —  which can be very hard to quantify — oysters might stack up well as off-site option for water quality improvement.

Paul Calamita

As Paul says,

Such a program would optimally allow existing sources around the bay to buy Maryland oyster credits to offset existing or additional nutrient loadings. The dollars obtained would be used by the state to fund public and/or private contractors who would turn the dollars into oysters in the bay.

Such contractors would ideally include stewardship groups like the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, which already has a modest oyster growing program. However, if we really want to make progress for the bay, rather than the few million oysters CBF currently reintroduces to the bay annually, we need them to introduce and manage many billions.

I’d have to ding Paul for envisioning the state taking the dollars and then contracting later with non-profits.  As readers know, Stories from the Field is a not a fan of state Fee Programs that take the money first and do the work later.   But that aside, Paul has a good idea.  Lord knows it is going to take some creative thinking if the great bay to the north is ever going to heal.

I’m gonna give Paul Calamita a call.  I’ll let you know what I find out.