By RAMIT PLUSHNICK-MASTI
MATAGORDA, Texas (AP) — A deep sea oyster reef restoration being touted as the largest ever in the Gulf of Mexico began in an unlikely place: a quarry in landlocked Missouri.
That is where years of research, planning and precise engineering led Mark Dumesnil, an associate director of restoration for the Nature Conservancy in Texas, as he sought to restore what was once a nearly 500-acre oyster reef and is now no more than hard sand and shell remains, with not one oyster in sight.
And so, about seven years after Dumesnil was first tipped off by wildlife ecosystem experts that restoration of Half Moon Reef might be possible, 36 barges carrying 93,000 tons of Missouri limestone traveled for 12 days down the Mississippi River, arriving in the Gulf in late October. Scientists, engineers, researchers and laborers will spend some eight weeks dropping the boulders onto a 54-acre plot 8 feet underwater as part of a $5.4 million, two-phase project designed to revitalize a damaged ecosystem.
The project also will provide a robust natural barrier from hurricanes and teach scientists whether reefs can rebuild in drought conditions, becoming another mechanism for marine habitats to withstand devastating dry spells. ...more