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Virginia CZM Program 2008 Coastal Grant Project Description and Final Summary

Project Task:



Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Project Title:

Seaside Special Area Management Plan: Spatial Information Analysis and Interpretation for Shellfish Grounds and SAV Beds

Project Description as Proposed:

The overall SAMP Strategy consists of three phases, covering Fiscal Years 2008, 2009, 2010. The project will be led by Virginia CZM in partnership with The Nature Conservancy, the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission and the Virginia Eastern Shorekeeper, and representatives of the shellfish aquaculture industry. It will be completed in the interval commencing October 1, 2009 and finishing March 31, 2012. The goals of this SAMP are (1) to map, analyze, and interpret the current status and trends in the uses, economic values, and beneficial ecosystem functions associated with state-owned and other habitats in the seaside bays of Virginia’s Eastern Shore, (2) to re-evaluate these uses in light of current and projected conditions, and (3) to recommend guidelines for the allocation of resources in a manner that optimizes the environmental and socio-economic benefits derived. Using existing GIS data, combined with stakeholder/user information, management agency input and the scientific evaluation of available data, the effectiveness of use allocation patterns such as state oyster grounds will be examined in the context of current stakeholder uses and needs, and current ecological conditions. A consensus building process will result in a plan which recommends regulatory and other guidelines to:
• increase economic productivity
• enhance ecosystem health
• resolve potential conflicts

The unique biological diversity, ecological health, and economic importance to local communities are all well documented for Virginia’s seaside bays. Virginia CZM’s long-term commitment to and investment in enhancing the wise use of coastal resources in this region has played a significant role in management of the seaside bays ; this SAMP builds on those previous efforts, and particularly on the 6 year (FY 2002 – 2007) Seaside Heritage Program.

This Phase 1 grant application by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science is for $32,896 of FY08 funds. Tasks to be performed under this grant by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science include evaluation of the current status and trends related to (1) productivity of natural oyster beds in the seaside bays, including the effectiveness of restoration efforts over the past 15 years, (2) productivity and habitat utilization by shellfish aquaculture, including potential growth areas, (3) restoration of submerged aquatic vegetation, along with future restoration targets and, (4) loss of habitats due to erosion, subsidence, channel diversion and island movements. These evaluations will be conducted using existing geo-spatial data layers, aerial photography, field groundtruthing data and input from experts and stakeholders.

Mark Luckenbach will serve as the chief scientist on the project working in conjunction with the Project Team (see below) to produce geo-spatially referenced data that will be used to produce draft maps reflecting current and potential use within the coastal bays for native shellfish restoration (including sanctuaries and shellfisheries enhancement), shellfish aquaculture and SAV restoration. These maps will include demarcation of areas currently designated for uses that have now become inappropriate due to environmental change (e.g., former oyster grounds that are no longer viable as a result of 1.5 ft of sea level rise since their original survey). He will also coordinate with TNC to include data related to water bird nesting, foraging and migratory distributions and with the Shorekeeper to include recreational use data in the region. The maps resulting from this initial phase will doubtless show areas of overlapping and competing projected uses by the various activities and designation in the coastal bays.

In addition to Luckenbach, the broader Project Team on this effort will be lead by Laura McKay, VA Coastal Zone Program Manager and will include Nick Made, Virginia CZM GIS Coordinator, Steve Parker, Director of Nature Conservancy’s Virginia Coast Reserve, Alex Wilke, TNC-VCR, Marcia Berman (VIMS), Tony Watkinson and Hank Badger (VA Marine Resources Commission), Heather Lusk, (Terry Brothers Seafood), and Dave Burden (Virginia Eastern Shorekeeper). Laura McKay will head the project, providing leadership, guidance and continuity of purpose with previous initiatives on the seaside, especially the Seaside Heritage Program. Steve Parker will serve as the overall project administrator coordinating meetings and communications among the Project Team and producing an overall summary of Phase 1 efforts by the Project Team with recommendations for Phase 2 & 3 activities (see FY 2008 Task 96.01).

The Seaside SAMP Phase II grant proposal (FY 2009) will further refine and ground-truth spatial data, engage in wider stakeholder/sector contacts and interviews, define and map a matrix of preferred stakeholder/sector uses, and examine alternative spatial configurations and allocations.

Federal Funding:


Project Contact:

Mark W. Luckenbach - (757) 787-5816:

Project Status:

Project Completed; 10/1/2009 - 3/31/2010

Final Product Received:

VIMS Seaside SAMP Sample (Photoshop PDF)

Project Summary Provided by Grantee:

VIMS staff used geo-referenced aerial- and ground-based data to map the current oyster reef and SAV bed distributions in relation to digital public shellfish grounds (Baylor grounds) designations provided by VMRC. These maps were used in work sessions with experts on oyster and seagrass restoration and with stakeholders from the shellfish aquaculture industry to develop working maps of potential uses for the Baylor grounds. Analysis of these working maps reveals that 63% of the public shellfish grounds on the Seaside are appropriate for wild shellfish (clams and oysters) and 32% is appropriate for SAV restoration (Table 1).

Table 1. 
Summary data from GIS-based analysis of potential uses of Baylor grounds on the Seaside. All 132 areas representing 209 km2 designated as Baylor Grounds were analyzed. Potential Use DesignationArea (km2)% of Current Baylor Oyster reefs (wild fishery, conservation or restoration) 120 57 Wild clam fishery136 Clam aquaculture*21 Oyster aquaculture*73 Not appropriate for shellfish105 SAV habitat6632 *These potential uses were not fully mapped in this phase of the project. Phase II will map the potential for these activities in greater detail in three sub-regions of the Seaside. 

Additionally, bathymetry, sediment type and exposure data were used where available to develop a “first-cut” estimate of suitability for SAV throughout the seaside bays. Comparison of the current SAV distribution with its potential distribution indicates that as much as a six-fold increase in SAV area within the seaside bays may be possible and that an estimated 50% of these beds would be in areas currently designated as Baylor grounds (Table 2). 

Table 2. Current (2008 data) and potential SAV habitat on the seasidePotential Use DesignationCurrent Area (km)Potential area(km) Total SAV area on the Seaside20131 Total SAV area w/i Baylor Grounds1266 % of SAV w/i Baylor5950

The project deliverables, “working maps” of current and potential habitats for shellfish and SAV, have been delivered to the Virginia CZMP in the form of GIS data layers with accompanying metadata as a brief abstract. Since these maps are intended as tools to be used within the Seaside SAMP team to build more refined spatial planning maps in later phases of this program, they will not be posted on-line or widely distributed at this time. They will serve as a starting point during the next phase of this work by the Seaside SAMP team and stakeholders in upcoming meetings to develop a more comprehensive marine spatial plan for the seaside bays. See attached sample map.

 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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