Old Dam Used To Create New Artificial Reef In The Chesapeake

ELLICOTT CITY, Md. (WJZ)– A dam that outlived its usefulness on the Patapsco River is being put to new use in the Chesapeake.

Alex DeMetrick reports the Simkins Dam is being recycled to build new life.

Water canons are doing the work where the Chester River enters the Chesapeake Bay, scattering tons of recycled concrete overboard. They are building blocks for an artificial reef.

“What we want to find are these locations of bottom that are hard and flat, where we can place material without having it sink down in the mud,” Eric Zlokovitz of Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Services said.

That material was once the Simkins Dam in Ellicott City. With mills a thing of the past, the dam was removed by the American Rivers Organization to give fish a way upstream. The new reef will give oysters a place to call home.

“By next week, we’ll have four million juvenile oysters planted on it,” said Stephanie Westby of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). “These oysters will not be harvested. They’ll stay here and filter the water and provide habitat for other species.”

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation will use a specially designed boat to scatter the young oysters over a two acre reef rising one foot above bottom.

“Because if they’re sitting right on the bottom, they have a tendency to get covered up with sediment, silt, mud, that sort of thing,” Zlokovitz said.

The reef is being built here because this was once a highly productive oystering ground.

“These are historically good waters for oysters, and we still have pretty good water quality in this area,” Westby said.

But no oysters. Disease and centuries of fishing saw to that. But an old dam could mean new life.

The four million juvenile oysters have been planted on recycled shells and will go onto the new reef starting Thursday.

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