June 20, 2014
Restoration Projects: A bang for the oyster buck
By TRISTA TALTON
Coastal Review Online
Local economies are getting bang for the bucks
that fund coastal restoration projects, according to recent federal
Coastal restoration projects completed
throughout the U.S. in 2011 created more than 470 jobs and
contributed $35.6 million in local economic stimulus, according to a
Fish and Wildlife Service study.
Returns: The Contribution of Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program
and Coastal Program Project to Local U.S. Economies”
is an analysis of the effects of coastal restoration projects on
local economies. It found that coastal restoration programs totaled
$19.2 million in 2011. The Fish and Wildlife Service invested $2.8
million in the those projects, which were then supplemented with more
than $16 million in partner spending.
meant that for every dollar that that the service spent in coastal
restoration programs nationwide almost $7 was raised from other
sources, creating more than $12 in economic returns.
The agency got less bang for its buck in North
Carolina where it spent $623,000 on 50 coastal restoration projects
in 2011. That attracted another $817,000 in partner contributions,
for a leverage of a little more than $2 for every federal dollar
spent. Those projects, according to the study, created 35 jobs.
This money supports local businesses that hire
and pay employees. Those employees spend money in the local economy,
which produces local tax revenues.
A total of $50,000 was invested in N.C. coastal
projects in 2011 resulting in $3,000 in direct business taxes.
Dozens of shoreline and oyster reef restoration
projects along the North Carolina coast have contributed to local
economies for years.
“The issue is that the projects do have
tremendous economic value that we can put dollar and cents on,”
said Charles “Pete” Peterson, a distinguished professor at the
University of North Carolina Institute
of Marine Sciences.
“Oyster reefs are certainly something where we have made a great
deal of progress. There are many services that oyster reefs
provide. One of these ecosystem services is the sequestering of
carbon. If we have natural environments that sequester that carbon
we’ve done ourselves a huge service with tremendous economic
Oysters and the reefs that they form are
crucial to estuaries. They filter water by removing pollutants,
sediment and excess algae, help control shoreline erosion, provide
habitat to juvenile fish, and are critical links in the estuarine
food chain, supporting the production of crabs and fish.
The state Division
of Marine Fisheries and
environmental groups have for years been rehabilitating oyster
habitats along the N.C. coast after the shellfish population was
drastically depleted for decades beginning in the 1880s.
Oysters induce denitrification,
the process of converting nitrogen, which flows into streams and
rivers from stormwater runoff, into nitrogen gas.
“By that process they help fight against the
process of eutrophication that
affects our estuaries here as well as elsewhere,” Peterson said.
Taking care of these processes naturally saves
what can be added costs to developers who, through a state program,
must pay a fee based on anticipated nitrogen flow into waterways from
The value of nitrogen removal from a 100-acre
area of oyster reef habitat was estimated at $1,385 to $6,716 a year,
according to the 2012 report “Economic
Valuation of Ecosystem Services Provided by Oyster Reefs”
published in BioScience.
Oyster reefs also serve as natural breakwaters,
protecting public and private shorelines.
“That particular method of protecting
shorelines against flooding and against damage from dangerous storms
has tremendous value,” Peterson said.
One such project was in Bogue Sound, where the
habitat of 1,000 linear feet of shoreline is being restored.
more than $793,000 project, led by Carteret
includes construction of offshore gapped breakwaters, a sill using
alternative stabilization and restoration materials including
bio-reef balls and bags of oyster shells and the planting of
The project will lessen stormwater flow into
the sound. During a one-inch of rainfall one million gallons of
stormwater flows from the campus and into the sound, according to the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Restoration Center’s Community-Based Restoration Program in
partnership with the N.C. Coastal Federation helped fund the project.
Cutting stormwater runoff should prevent
further shellfishing closures along the sound.
Eroding shoreline and marsh at Nags
Head Woods Ecological Preserve on
the Outer Banks is also underway. The $93,000 project includes
building a half acre of fringing oyster reef using shell bags,
planting of another half an acre of shoreline and adjacent upland
areas and seeding more than a quarter acre with native widgeon grass.
In Myrtle Grove and Masonboro Sounds at
Wrightsville Beach three acres of oyster reef habitat are being
These projects are among nearly 100 North
Carolina coast shoreline and oyster restoration programs implemented
since the early 2000s through the Estuary Restoration Act.
Coastal restoration projects have been put into
action over the years in several coastal counties, including Dare,
Carteret, Brunswick, New Hanover, Pender, Onslow Tyrrell and
Last year in Hyde County the federation, in
collaboration with local farmers, N.C. State University, the USDA
Natural Resource Conservation Service and other state and federal
nonprofits and agencies, began the process of restoring 2,750 acres
The project will remove millions of gallons of
stormwater drainage from farmlands into tributaries of the Albemarle
and Pamlico sounds, ultimately improving estuarine water quality for
finfish and shellfish.
story is provided courtesy of Coastal Review Online, the coastal news
and features service of the N.C. Coastal Federation. You can read
other stories about the North Carolina coast at www.nccoast.org.)