Chesapeake Bay habitat gets boost from local reef ball build

John A. Pavoncello
York Dispatch

The Chesapeake Bay will be getting much needed new habitat thanks to an effort by a local professional group.

The central Pennsylvania chapter of the Society for Marketing Professional Services recently held a reef ball building and networking event to create concrete structures for the bay. The event was held at the Susquehanna Heritage Columbia Crossing River Trails Center in Columbia.

"Here in Lancaster County, we are kind of ground zero for clean water initiatives relating to the Chesapeake Bay," society President Shawn Barron said. 

Nearly 100 volunteers in 19 teams assembled fiberglass molds and mixed concrete to form the roughly 3-by-3-foot reef balls. After curing, the molds were disassembled and the reef balls were transported to the bay for deployment by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

The reef balls will help create a clean water, oyster-friendly habitat by becoming hosts to oyster spat (larvae) that will grow into dense clusters of oysters.

"Oysters are a filter feeder, so in ideal conditions an adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day. So the end result is a cleaner water and a healthier bay," said Sarah Boynton, associate director of corporate and foundation relations for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. 

Not only will the reef balls help the oysters, the structures will become home to an assortment of bay life.

"Because they are hollow, fish, baby crabs and adult crabs can take sanctuary there. It provides a habitat for them," Boynton said. 

The ball-building event also raised money for the foundation, as each team paid a fee to participate.