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Suit seeks to save articifial oyster reef

Sept. 25, 2007 at 2:42 PM

NEWPORT NEWS, Va., Sept. 25 (UPI) -- An environmentalist is suing the Virginia Marine Resources Commission over the pending destruction of an abandoned Navy ammunition depot in the James River.

Robert W. Jensen of the Rappahannock Preservation Society has asked for a court order preventing the Navy from destroying the depot, which has served as an oyster reef, The (Norfolk) Virginian-Pilot reported. Jensen has asked that the state take ownership over the structure -- or at least the pilings -- as an oyster sanctuary, to promote revival of the oyster stock in the Chesapeake Bay, the newspaper said.

Commission spokesman John Bull said officials don’t want to see the oysters destroyed, but he told the newspaper the structure has to go.

“It’s in deteriorating condition, and there’s all kinds of potential liability issues and navigational concerns,” Bull said.

Virginia Institute of Marine Science ecologist Rom Lipcius supports preserving the area, noting that 1 million oysters have survived two diseases that have ravaged the Chesapeake Bay oyster population.

Terri Davis, a spokeswoman for the Navy in Norfolk, said the Navy could accept transferring ownership of the structure to the state, salvaging oysters on the pilings, or leaving the pilings in place -- as long as all parties involved agree. She said the Navy just doesn’t want “to keep paying money to upkeep the structure.”

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