The North Carolina Coastal Federation is moving forward with its plans to expand an existing Pamlico Sound oyster sanctuary network and create a partnership to encourage underrepresented university students to study marine sciences.
The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration notified the nonprofit Thursday that the $14.9 million grant had been finalized.
NOAA first announced the award recommendation in late April for the nearly $15 million project titled, “Completing the Pamlico Sound Oyster Sanctuary and Training the Next Generation of Restoration Professionals,” through the Biden administration’s Climate Ready Coasts initiative, funded through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act.
This project is expected to complete the 500-acre goal of oyster sanctuaries in the Sen. Jean Preston Oyster Sanctuary Network, which is named in memory of the late state senator who represented Carteret County, and to facilitate an innovative program with N.C. State University and N.C. Central University to offer hands-on opportunities for underrepresented undergraduate and graduate students studying marine sciences.
Coastal Federation Oyster Program Director Erin Fleckenstein said that there are a handful of immediate next steps ahead for the oyster sanctuary work, including finalizing locations of future sanctuary construction.
“The grant will allow us to build out several existing sanctuaries that are already permitted, but we also need to finalize locations and permit the additional sanctuary locations,” she said. Organization staff will be able to work with material suppliers to secure enough in the quantities and types needed to build out the sanctuary acres, and ensure that the stockpile locations are prepped and ready.
Lastly, Fleckenstien said that for this portion of the project, the Coastal Federation will open up bids for a construction contractor who will be responsible for constructing the sanctuaries that are planned.
For the partnership with the two universities, Fleckenstein said the researchers have advertised and made motions to hire a cohort of graduate students who will work toward their master’s or doctorate’s during the course of the grant.
“We’ve developed a list of potential research questions that the students will address during their research,” she added.
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