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New Project to Develop a Wetland Restoration Design for Guinea Marsh

The Guinea Marsh Wildlife Management Area (above; photo by Lynda Richardson, Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources) is the target of a wetland restoration design project.

Wetlands are a vital and productive part of the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem. They provide habitat for many fish and wildlife species and can help protect communities by serving as a shoreline buffer. Unfortunately, the Middle Peninsula of Virginia is experiencing a high rate of wetland loss due to increasingly intense coastal storms, sea level rise, and land subsidence (the gradual sinking of the land). That’s why one of the Middle Peninsula Habitat Focus Area (HFA) objectives is to restore resilient shorelines, including tidal wetlands. 

A new project in the Middle Peninsula HFA aims to restore healthy wetlands. Green Fin Studio recently announced that it has selected Natrx to develop the design for a wetland restoration project in the Guinea Marsh Wildlife Management Area. Natrx is a Raleigh, North Carolina-based adaptive infrastructure company that focused on tackling coastal erosion challenges. Natrx will work with the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, Middle Peninsula Chesapeake Bay Public Access Authority, and Virginia Marine Resources Commission on the project. 

Natrx’s design will use intertidal oyster structures to reduce the impact of wave energy on the tidal wetlands that make up the Guinea Marsh shoreline. That will reduce wetland erosion and enhance oyster habitat. This project will support oyster restoration and marsh protection along a 750-foot stretch of shoreline that is vulnerable to low-to-medium wave energy. Currently, the area experiences an erosion rate of 3 feet per year. By implementing the design, restoration would also provide substrate for nearly 150,000 oysters, improve water quality and clarity, and reduce carbon release to the environment. 

As part of the project, Natrx will also recommend approaches for maximizing the benefits of restoring wetlands in the Guinea Marsh, such as enhancing the oyster population and supporting local fisheries. Their work to design the project will run from January through May 2024. Funding for this project is provided by the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office. Partners are already thinking about how to turn the forthcoming design into reality.

The effort supports findings in the Coastal Wetlands Plan, which is a roadmap that partners and landowners in the Middle Peninsula area can use as they collaborate on wetlands projects in their communities. The Plan was developed by the York River and Small Coastal Basin Roundtable (led by the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Virginia) and the Roundtable’s Habitat Restoration Steering Committee (led by the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office).