Severn River Restoration Project

In a great example of a multi-agency cooperative restoration project, the Severn River has been the recent beneficiary of 13 new acres of oyster reef. Created using artificial substrates, the new reefs are located in four spots between the Route 50 and 450 bridges where oyster beds were historically located but no longer productive. Learn more about the project and its progress below.

Ecological Restoration - Severn River Restoration Project

Severn River MapThe Severn River is a tidal tributary of the Chesapeake Bay, extending from Annapolis northwestward about 10 miles. The mean salinity varies seasonally from about 7 to 12 parts per thousand, making it well suited to support disease-free oyster growth, but slightly less saline than necessary for natural reproduction to occur. The entire Severn River was designated as an oyster sanctuary area by the State in 2009, although oyster harvest has been banned in the Severn for many years due to public health concerns. See a detailed view of the project area by clicking on the map.

Still, active restoration of oyster reefs here is ongoing in hopes that any larvae produced might be carried downstream to more favorable settlement areas and that the oyster reef habitat can be restored to its historical footprint. The Oyster Recovery Partnership, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other partners have made significant contributions to oyster restoration in this river since 1998. The most recent project, now partially complete under the direction of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is described in more detail below.

Project Progress and Highlights

  • Construction of the alternative substrate oyster bars was completed in December 2009. Approximately 13 acres of reef were created using concrete, steel slag, and stone.
  • As-built drawings of that work were completed in early March 2010.
  • On 18 March 2010, representatives from the Sparrows Point steel slag processor made a presentation to a gathering of Federal, state, and citizen groups. This presentation described the manufacturing process used to obtain steel slag, as well as results of physical-chemical studies on the environmental impacts of slag use. Roughly 2,000 cubic yards out of 27,000+ cubic yards of alternative materials placed in the Severn was steel slag.
  • Following coordination with state and local groups in spring 2010, USACE prepared a scope of work for monitoring of the Severn River restoration sites. This scope is in the contract negotiation phase, with the monitoring to commence in October 2010.
  • Oyster spat from the Horn Point Hatchery was placed on the restoration sites in August 2010; in addition, the Traces Hollow 1B site received oysters grown by volunteer oyster gardeners.

 Army Corps' Role in Chesapeake Bay Oyster Restoration

The Baltimore District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) became involved in regional efforts to restore oysters in the Chesapeake Bay when its leaders signed a project cooperation agreement with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources in February 1997, with an amendment in July 2002. With other resource agencies, educational institutions and individuals, the partnership set up a multi-year project called the Chesapeake Bay Oyster Recovery Program . The goal of the restoration effort, as laid out in the Chesapeake Bay 2000 agreement, was to increase oyster habitat 10-fold by the year 2010. The Chesapeake Bay Agreement oyster goal was updated in 2014, calling for the restoration of oyster habitat and populations in 10 tributaries by 2025. Here is the updated 2014 Chesapeake Bay Agreement. The Baltimore District serves as the lead USACE district involved in Bay watershed issues.

In conjunction with the ongoing Chesapeake Bay Oyster Recovery Program, an Environmental Assessment was prepared in May 2009 for the actions relating to the placement of alternate (non-oyster shell) substrate in designated Oyster Recovery Areas (ORA's) of the following tributaries: Patuxent, Severn, Magothy, Chester, Choptank and Nanticoke Rivers. Prior oyster restoration activities by the USACE in these areas were conducted with oyster shell only, but availability of clean shell is now limited due to decades of tremendous harvest without shell replacement, further population declines from disease mortality, and the recent inability to get a permit for shell dredging. Through summer 2010, the USACE has constructed approximately 450 acres of new Maryland oyster bars in the Magothy, Severn, Choptank, Patuxent, and Chester Rivers, as well as Kedges Strait and Eastern Bay.

The USACE project manager for Chesapeake Bay oyster restoration projects, Kim Gross, can be reached at​ or 410.962.3457.