Join in the Celebration!
Elizabeth River Project Members, RSVP here
Not yet a member? Join Today!
Check in at registration booth at Norfolk Yacht and Country Club (NYCC).
Guests go to designated pier and receive an oyster to plant on the reef!
Boating is optional. Guests may observe the ceremonial oyster planting from the shores of the Hermitage Museum and Gardens as an alternative.
Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) canoes and all personal paddle vessels launch from NYCC boat ramp/Pier C.
A limited number of CBF canoes will be available. Please contact CBF for availability.
CBF power boats depart from NYCC Pier E.
Flotilla convenes adjacent to Hermitage Museum and Gardens for ceremonial planting of oysters, completing the final Lafayette sanctuary reef.
See map below for power boat and paddle boat locations. The air horn will alert boaters to plant their oysters for group shot!
Workboats depart/return to NYCC
Paddle Boats depart/return to NYCC
No boats are permitted to dock or beach at Hermitage.
11:30 A.M. to 1:30 P.M.
Oyster Roast and Lunch at Hermitage Museum and Gardens, including a brief speaking program at Noon.
The First Virginia River to Achieve Full Restoration of Oyster Habitat
Today, the Lafayette branch of the Elizabeth River achieves a major milestone, thanks to many partners. Today, the Lafayette becomes the first Virginia tributary in the Chesapeake Bay watershed to meet science-based goals for the full restoration of habitat needed to bring back the native oyster (Crassostrea virginica).
THANK YOU to the dozens of partners and many hundreds of individuals who have worked with the Elizabeth River Project and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) since we began organizing the community to restore the Lafayette in 2009. A Small Watershed Grant, administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), in cooperation with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the federal Chesapeake Bay Program, provided the catalyst federal funding that allowed the non-profits to launch a community-wide plan for the Lafayette in 2011. In turn, in 2016, after concerted efforts by many partners the state removed the Lafayette River from the list of waters impaired for bacteria. With today’s milestone, partners have exceeded the 80-acre goal for oyster reef habitat in the Lafayette.
Key achievements in these efforts include:
- The Elizabeth River Project has taken the lead with recent construction of oyster reefs in the Lafayette, building 12 new oyster reefs with contractors Hodges and Hodges and Coastal Engineering and funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NFWF, EPA and private donations. Recycled concrete is capped with oyster shell to create habitat that shelters many species in addition to oysters, from striped bass to blue crabs.
- The Chesapeake Bay Foundation has seeded 70 million spat and has placed 1500 oyster reef balls on Lafayette oyster reefs since 2010. Hundreds of citizen oyster gardeners and approximately 300 citizen spat catchers have helped restore the oysters in the river over the years. With the help from the City of Norfolk, and oyster shell recyclers, CBF has collected thousands of bushels of oyster shells to serve as a base for baby oysters.
- A total of 32.63 acres of reefs have been restored in the Lafayette River by Elizabeth River Project and other partners. Virginia Marine Resources Commission was among the first with support of the Rotary Club Norfolk in 1998 with further efforts by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the City of Norfolk.
- USACE, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, Christopher Newport University, and NOAA discovered 48 acres of existing “relict” reefs in 2014. These reefs have some of the largest oysters seen anywhere in the Chesapeake Bay.
- Lafayette Wetlands Partnership, a non-profit, invented a small-scale oyster block, nicknamed the “oyster berg,” to facilitate residential-scale oyster reefs. SKW Constructors and the Hampton Roads Sanitation District helped with molds and concrete.
- Combined partner efforts are allowing oyster populations to recover in the Lafayette to a degree that’s rare around the Bay. Spat-on-shell success at the reef restored at the Granby Street bridge shows 118 oysters per square meter, twice the Chesapeake Bay Program’s goal of 50 oysters per meter. While state health advisories still don’t allow for consumption of the Lafayette oyster, this restriction is being evaluated.
Oyster restoration has many benefits: creating habitat and feeding grounds for animals from fish to river otters to wading birds, improving water quality (oysters serve as natural filters), and protecting shorelines from erosion. Trawl surveys along restored reefs in the Lafayette have documented 27 species of fish, including striped bass, red drum, summer flounder, silver perch, and blue crabs.