CHERRY POINT — A partnership between Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point’s Environmental Affairs Department and Duke University could help reintroduce a native species of oyster to the Neuse River.
According to Cherry Point environmental specialists, the eastern oyster, scientific name Crassostrea virginica, once thrived along the Neuse River near what is now MCAS Cherry Point. Since that time more than 80 years ago, the local eastern oyster population gradually faded away.
The partnership between the EAD and Duke University has been studying the feasibility of reintroducing the eastern oyster back into this section of the Neuse River, according to a release from Cherry Point Communications Strategy and Operations.
The partnership is a result of a project started by the university called Duke Restore, a new initiative focused on building partnerships within the academic community, as well as with government and non-governmental organizations. The overall goal is to build ecosystems which benefit people and nature.
The project has multiple teams focused on different themes, such as living shorelines and blue carbon. The project incorporates scientific design and mentorship expertise, as well as hands-on training for younger scientists.
Cherry Point’s partnership with Duke University is part of a larger, ongoing project aboard the air station. More than 5,000 linear feet of shoreline along the Neuse River were damaged during Hurricane Florence in 2018, and since that time, the EAD has been working to secure funding to repair the damage and make extensive improvements to the shoreline’s design. The department plans to construct a living shoreline, a combination of an offshore sill and native vegetation that maximizes shoreline protection and generates ecological benefits, such as carbon storage and essential habitats for animals.
Records show the Neuse River shorelines has suffered significant erosion, receding more than 20 feet in some locations since the late 1990s. The new shoreline layout will incorporate unique designs that will allow the shoreline to accumulate sediment material as opposed to continual erosion, according to the release.
EAD Natural Resources Manager Jessica Guilianelli said the project paves the way for a shoreline that “protects the infrastructure, is environmentally conscious and sets the installation up for success for decades to come.”