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Virginia Coastal Program: 2007 Coastal Grant Project Description and Final Summary

Project Task:



Virginia Institute of Marine Science - Center for Coastal Resources Management

Project Title:

Assessment of Aquaculture Potential within Baylor
Grounds in the Lower Rappahannock River

Project Description as Proposed:

Virginia is currently engaged in discussions that could lead to a change in how existing Baylor Grounds (public oyster ground) within Virginia waters are managed. Several scenarios have been discussed that would open these grounds for future aquaculture use. Since the original delineation of Baylor Grounds in the 1800s, natural and anthropogenic influences have greatly changed the condition of Baylor Grounds. These influences have depleted natural stock and hampered replenishment efforts over many decades. The extent to which these grounds have the capacity to support oysters is not known. What is known, however, are the environmental conditions under which oysters should grow both naturally and in cultured environments.

Using best available science and GIS mapping technology, the objectives of this project are to delineate and quantify areas within Baylor Grounds that remain suitable for growing oysters and have the potential to support aquaculture. Suitability will be determined based on a modified version of the aquaculture suitability model being revised under a separate initiative. This model uses GIS to map areas most likely to support aquaculture based on the physical and environmental landscape and conditions. The model revisions will be completed in September and applied in this proposed project.

While the Aquaculture Suitability Model is not specific for Baylor Grounds, the project will utilize an existing boundary delineation of Baylor Grounds developed by VIMS using survey boundaries provided by the Marine Resources Commission. The model run will specifically look at conditions within Baylor Grounds.
The lower Rappahannock River has been selected by committee as a logical place to conduct this inquiry. An Oyster Management Plan for this area is being developed and significant efforts to survey conditions there have been performed. Much of these data will be used to support the proposed effort.

A final report with maps will be delivered electronically to the Coastal Zone Management Program for distribution among stakeholders. The model output will be delivered as shape files for integration into CZMP programs and projects such as Coastal GEMS.

Federal Funding:


Project Contact:

Marcia Berman, (804) 684-7188;

Project Status:

10/01/07 - 9/30/08 - Project Completed

Final Product Received:

Shellfish Aquaculture Suitability within Baylor Grounds of the Lower Rappahannock River (pdf)

Project Summary Provided by Grantee:

Should the Commonwealth of Virginia ever consider a regulated expansion of the aquaculture industry to public Baylor ground, timely information regarding the productivity of these grounds and the ability to support aquaculture would be highly desirable information.  In this scenario, public bottom could be opened to private shellfish growers in the Commonwealth under what would likely be a tightly monitored regulation.   The demise in productivity of natural oyster beds within Baylor Grounds is well known.  However, there is no comprehensive resource that addresses whether Baylor Grounds would be suitable for aquaculture. This study uses Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to model suitable shellfish growing areas within the public Baylor Grounds.  The model considers basic physical and biological conditions necessary for aquaculture success, potential ecological use conflicts, and the impacts that current land use have on suitable growing areas.The study uses data available from federal, state, and local government sources to derive salinity, bathymetry, submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) distribution, water quality, oyster rock, and land use.  A classification is scaled to reflect current conditions.  The project focuses on Baylor Ground within the Lower Rappahannock River only.  Results do not reflect conditions elsewhere in the Bay.

The model results indicate that water depth in a large percent of the Baylor Ground in this particular area is too deep for most aquaculture operations.  Salinity values in the river are generally too low for clam aquaculture.   Oyster aquaculture appears to be the only viable shellfish growing opportunity on Baylor Grounds in the Lower Rappahannock River.   The locations of preferred sites are depicted on maps. 

Project deliverables include this report as well as all GIS based files. 

Disclaimer: This project summary provides the federal dollars initially awarded to the grantee. Due to underexpenditure or reprogramming of grant funds, this figure may change. For more information on the allocation of coastal grant funds, please contact Laura McKay, Virginia Coastal Program Manager, at 804.698.4323 or email:

A more detailed Scope of Work for this project is available. Please direct your request for a copy to

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Virginia Department of
Environmental Quality
P.O. Box 1105
Richmond, VA 23218
(804) 698-4000

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