Martin County Begins Oyster Reef Restoration Project

Martin County has begun a new project that will add to the St. Lucie Estuary’s oyster habitat in a two-acre area near the shoreline west of Krueger Creek on the south side of the St. Lucie River, near downtown Stuart. This new project comes ten years after the Martin County Board of County Commissioners first launched the Oyster Reef Restoration Program in response to declining oyster populations in the St. Lucie Estuary. Since that time, more than 30 acres of oyster habitat has been constructed with the goal of improving the water quality of the river.


“Recent monitoring efforts have provided data on the ongoing success of our program to provide productive habitat for oyster and other estuarine species,” said Kathy FitzPatrick, Martin County Coastal Engineer. “This two-acre project will allow us to build upon this success and continue water quality improvements in the St. Lucie Estuary.”


Truckloads of shells and other materials used to build oyster beds are being delivered to the Phipps Park staging area. The contractor, McCulley Marine, will transport the material on a barge to the deployment site. The project is expected to take three weeks to complete.


Ongoing monitoring has shown that even after time of degraded water quality, when oyster populations decline, the persistent existence of this oyster habitat allows the population to rebound within about 18 months. Without this restored habitat oyster populations would continue to decline, as larval oysters would have a difficult time finding suitable substrate where they could attach, grow and later reproduce. Oyster habitat is crucial to the health of our estuaries, providing a home to oysters that effectively filter nutrients, fine sediments and toxins from the water. Just one adult oyster can filter between 20 and 50 gallons of water per day. The newly constructed reef habitat, when fully populated with oysters, could filter an amount equal to the total volume of the St Lucie Estuary in about a month.


This project was made possible through a grant from Unites States Army Corps of Engineers, who provided over $200,000 through the federal Estuary Habitat Restoration program. This grant includes a five-year monitoring program where oyster recruitment and water quality will be analyzed. For more information about oyster restoration, visit or call 772-221-1387.


In 2009, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) awarded Martin County more than $4 million in federal funding for the Oyster Reef Restoration Project as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The project restored important oyster habitat in the St. Lucie and Loxahatchee Estuaries, leading to long-term and significant ecological improvements to the health of the river as well as providing additional recreational and economic benefits to the community.


Oyster reefs also provide essential habitat structure for many other forms of marine life including shrimp, clams, crabs, snails and a variety of recreationally important fish such as gag grouper, gray snapper, redfish, and sheepshead.

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