McAuliffe visits Mathews to get look at oyster sanctuary in Piankatank River
McAuliffe and other officials cruised out from Narrows Marina on Gwynn’s Island to the oyster sanctuary on a VMRC boat captained by Mathews resident Vernon Rowe, after first taking the time to greet island residents and marina owners Preston and Anna Jenkins.
Not only did McAuliffe visit the oyster sanctuary, but he also accepted a contribution of $500,000 from Michael Litford, executive director of The Nature Conservancy, for the new reef.
McAuliffe hailed the sanctuary reef as an example of a successful public/private partnership. He said the project is “about jobs, waterways, tours, and everyone working together.” But it only works, he said, “if we all walk away feeling like winners.”
“All these partners from public to private show how when you work together, you can get things done,” said the governor. “I love oysters, and I want to make sure we’re the oyster capital of the world!”
Tommy Kellum of Kellum Seafood, who is also vice president of the Virginia Seafood Council said the effort created 33 local jobs and has multiple additional benefits, including clean water and habitat for other bay species. His company was awarded the contract to deploy the oyster seed onto the oyster grounds to create the reef.
“As a federal engineer, this is amazing,” said Col. Paul B. Olsen, commander of the Norfolk District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “It’s a tangible result of the four Cs—country, corps, commonwealth and community.” Olsen said the same model should work for other projects, as well, such as tackling sea level rise and revitalizing the Port of Virginia.