VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Two recently announced grants from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation will allow the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the James River Association to move forward with freshwater mussel restoration in Virginia.
The projects come after a 2021 report called for a comprehensive regional mussel restoration plan to address dramatic population declines in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
“Momentum is growing in Virginia to recover these amazing freshwater mussels, but we feel again and again that we need a plan to focus these efforts,” said Dr. Joe Wood, Virginia Senior Scientist with the Foundation in a press release. “Freshwater mussels are an important part of the natural heritage of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
“These projects will set the stage for more freshwater mussels, cleaner water in fishing grounds along our headwaters and a healthier Chesapeake Bay.”
The foundation and association hope that additional mussel restoration can be accomplished throughout the Chesapeake Bay basin by developing maps, plans, and identifying next steps.
The $3.5 million in grants is supported by the first round of federal money under the new Chesapeake Watershed Investments in Landscape Defense (WILD) Act.
Approximately 23 mussel species live in Virginia’s freshwater rivers and streams that empty into the bay from the James River to the Shenandoah Valley to small mountain streams, but their populations in the watershed are estimated to of the bay have been reduced by 90% since European settlers arrived in the 1600s. .
A single mussel can filter up to 15 gallons of water per day. It helps prevent pollutants like nitrogen from flowing downstream and leads to clearer, cleaner water.
The foundation is using the grant to launch the project, Establishing a Plan for Freshwater Mussels: Protect, Restore and Engage, in which it will create an interactive map highlighting stretches of streams and rivers with critical mussel habitat. ‘fresh water. That, he said, will help guide future restoration and conservation efforts.
The project will also create 3D printed models of mussel shells representing all species in the Bay’s watershed, in collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution and the Florida Museum of Natural History.
“The success of our mussel planting work so far demonstrates that it is possible to return these unique species to the James River, with all the water quality and habitat benefits they provide,” said Erin Reilly, Scientist James River senior. association “This grant will advance efforts to bring experts together and chart a common course for mussel restoration in the James.”