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Work Set to Begin on Neuse Oyster Sanctuary

SOUTH RIVER — The North Carolina Coastal Federation and its partners have announced they will break ground this spring on a 15-acre oyster project, part of the federation’s goal to restore 50 million oysters in North Carolina’s waters by 2020.

The project, known as the Swan Island Oyster Sanctuary, will take place in the Neuse River, near the community of South River in Carteret County. Federal and state permits for the projects were received by the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries. The federation will work with Stevens Towing Co. Inc., which has an Edenton office, to complete the project.

“This is a great example of how public-private partnerships can work together to restore oyster reefs in our coastal waterways,” said Erin Fleckenstein, coastal scientist for the federation and project manager for the restoration project. “Working with the state and federal government we were able to secure funding which will hire local North Carolina barge operators, truck drivers and marine contractors to build these reefs.”

The 50 Million Oyster Initiative is part of an effort by the federation to restore the shellfish in state waters, providing economic and environmental benefits. Fifty million oysters are estimated to filter 2.5 trillion gallons of water a day.

Partners on the project include North Carolina State University’s Center for Marine Sciences and the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, which modeled the sites based on biological, logistical and historical data. The division solicited public comments on the chosen sites.

Funding for the project this year include more than $1 million in state appropriations and a $1.275 million grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Grady White Boats provided additional funding.

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The story was compiled by staff members of Coastal Review Online.