Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

DNR's Oyster Shell Airlift Key to Restoration Project; Plan Is to Rebuild Oyster Beds in Glynn County Tidal Creeks

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

DNR's Oyster Shell Airlift Key to Restoration Project; Plan Is to Rebuild Oyster Beds in Glynn County Tidal Creeks

Article excerpt

Byline: Mike Morrison

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources staged an oyster shell airlift Thursday using a pair of state helicopters flown down from Atlanta.

The objective: to restore oyster beds, also called reefs, in Glynn County tidal creeks once teeming with the bivalve mollusks.

"Georgia once had large quantities of oysters, but the reefs were decimated 100 years ago," said Doug Haymans, policy coordinator for the DNR's Coastal Resources Division. "What we're trying to do here is recreate those oyster reefs."

Haymans and several other Coastal Resources Division employees acted as the ground crew, hooking up pallets of oyster shells to 50-foot cables dangling underneath helicopters piloted by Doc Watson and Steve Turner, both based at Fulton County Airport in Atlanta.

The shells had been collected from recycle bins and hauled to the Coastal Resources Division headquarters at the mouth of the Brunswick River. From there, it's a short, mile-and-a-half flight to the reef sites on Jointer and Cobb creeks just to the south of the Jekyll Island causeway.

Watson and Turner made several trips Thursday despite threatening skies and intermittent rainfall, with more scheduled for today. All told, they had 3,000 mesh sacks and 200 chicken wire racks loaded with 18 tons of shells to deliver.

The shells were to be laid out in the shallows of the creeks by a crew led by project manager Dominic Guadagnoli, who had arrived on the scene by boat, in an area that has been designated as Glynn County's Recreational Shellfish Harvest Area. Once in place, live oysters will begin to attach themselves to the shell reef, Haymans said.

"We have a lot of oyster larvae in the water," he said. "We don't have a place for them to settle."

The recycled oyster shells are meant to replace the "substrate," or underlying layer of dead shell that makes up the foundation of a living reef, he said. …

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