Tons Of Fossilized Oyster Shells Will Help Rebuild Habitat In Oyster Sanctuaries

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Oyster Express
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Alex DeMetrick has been a general assignment reporter with WJZ...
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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) –They’re at least a million years old and thousands of tons of them are rolling into Maryland. They’re fossilized oyster shells.

Alex DeMetrick reports the first load of the Oyster Express arrived Friday.

Down in Florida there is a huge deposit of ancient oyster shells.

A million or more years ago they fossilized as gulf waters receded. Now they’re on the move.

CSX is picking up the $2.5 million in rail costs to bring the Oyster Express to Maryland.

“Oysters are integral to Maryland, so we need to restore the beds, and we’re so glad to be part of that process,” said Michael Ward, CSX CEO.

In this case, that process uses the fossilized shells as building blocks.

In earlier efforts to rebuild oyster reefs, used concrete was laid on the bottom because oysters can’t live in mud.

“The bottom of the bay is silted up and oysters need hard substrate,” said Jake Reilly, Chesapeake Bay Program director.

And onto that substrate go recently recycled shells, not fossilized ones. Each has a baby oyster or two attached.

This time the substrate is going to be ancestral and huge–enough fossilized shell to fill hundreds of barges.

“We believe this is that largest restoration project ever performed in the continental United States,” said Tom O’Connell, DNR Fisheries director.

This is just a fraction of the fossilized shells headed for the bay.

“And that’s only half of one train. There will be a series of trains coming here with shell,” said Gov. Martin O’Malley.

“The amount of material we’re bringing up here could fill M&T Bank Stadium, a football field one foot deep, 80 times over,” Reilly said.

It’s a good thing they’re rested up to work after their million year nap.

The fossilized shells will be used to build protected oyster sanctuaries in Harris Creek and the Little Choptank.

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