Oyster ‘highway’ along New River gains support

Creatures with feathers, fur or scales benefit from the habitat preservation efforts of the N.C. Wildlife Habitat Foundation on land and in freshwater from the mountains to the coast.

Soon, those efforts will dip into salty waters to aid creatures congregating on oyster beds, including the hard-shelled creatures themselves.

“We’ve never done anything saltwater or on the coast,” said Eddie Bridges, the foundation founder and a tireless fundraiser for habitat preservation throughout the state. “We’ve done things from the far west to almost to the coast,” including a viewing station on the pond at the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum in Carteret County.

The oyster habitat restoration project will support the work of Pat Donovan-Potts, the stormwater manager and marine biologist for the City of Jacksonville in Onslow County. The UNC-Wilmington graduate has worked to improve the water quality in the New River and sees the opportunity to enhance those efforts with support from the city, the foundation and organizations such as Coastal Conservation Association North Carolina that Bridges is busy recruiting.

“My goal is to build a highway of oyster reefs,” Donovan-Potts, originally from Dunn, said. “When you build an oyster reef, there is a 212 percent increase in growth and an 850 percent increase in other marine life.”

Oyster shells would dot a 38-mile span of river between Wilson Bay and Stones Bay near Marine Corps Air Station New River and Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. The reefs would allow oyster larvae, which have just two weeks to attach, to more easily find permanent homes to which they will affix themselves and become the “spat” that grow into clusters of oysters.

At the foundation’s 21st Extravaganza banquet Feb. 18 at the Grandover Resort in Greensboro, fundraising received a $4,000 jump-start with the auction of a painting of a red drum over an oyster bed. Limited-edition prints of the original by renowned wildlife artist Duane Raver of Garner will be sold to benefit the oyster project.

Visitors can learn more at the foundation’s booth during the 37th Dixie Deer Classic hunting exposition March 3-5 at the State Fairgrounds in Raleigh. Go to www.dixiedeerclassic.org.

Turkey: The L.A. Dixon Jr. Memorial Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation will hold its banquet at 6 p.m. March 7 at The Big Barn in Hillsborough. Go to www.nwtf.org/events.

Bass: Great weather awaits anglers in the season-opening Cashion Fishing Rods Spring Team Bass Trail Qualifier No. 1 on Feb. 25 out of Cross Point landing on Harris Lake. The Piedmont Bass Classic event is also an open event for any angler. Go to http://piedmontbassclassics.com/BoatRampLocations.html.

Striped bass: The Roanoke River Management Area is opening to striped bass harvest on March 1, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission said Tuesday. Find limits and weekly reports at www.ncwildlife.org/fishing.

Regulations: At its Feb. 16 meeting, the Wildlife Resources Commission approved 38 of 39 proposed rules changes for 2017-18. Go to www.ncwildlife.org.

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