City restoring oyster beds removed during Cherry Grove dredging project

NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - The City of North Myrtle Beach is beginning work to restore oyster beds disturbed during the dredging of the Cherry Grove Canals.

Truckloads of oyster shells are on their way to be placed throughout two acres of the marsh. It's all part of the process to reestablish those oyster beds.

Trucks delivering the shells will unload them on to barges and the barges will then ferry the shells to those locations. The city says it will take about 1 million pounds of oyster shells to create the new oyster beds, which equates to about 50 barge trips.

Developing oysters will then attach themselves to those shells as they mature over several years.

"They'll dump the oysters in there, spread them out, then hopefully in the future young oysters as they then float into marshes, larvae will attach themselves and grow and over three years you'll have mature oysters again," said Pat Dowling, Public Information Officer for the City of North Myrtle Beach.

The total cost for the dredging project was about $8.2 million, which included money to go towards oyster mitigation. The dredging permit issued to the city by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers came with a requirement: the city must reestablish oyster beds that were disturbed during dredging.

"You want to make sure that the marsh is healthy. And part of that is beach grass, part of that is oyster beds and of course you've got bird life and aquatic life. It's a highly functioning environmental area and we want to make sure we keep it that way," said Dowling.

About half of the overflow parking lots at the Heritage Shores Nature Preserve at 53rd Avenue North will be closed to allow for the transfer of oyster shells.

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