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PDE, PENNVESTsign financial agreement investing in mussels for clean water projects

It’s bigger than just a hatchery:  

WILMINGTON, Del. — Partnership for the Delaware Estuary (PDE) has taken a 1200 copy 4significant step in the promotion of clean water. Before the close of 2018, PDE signed a multi-million dollar funding agreement with the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST) for the development and construction of a large-scale freshwater mussel hatchery and restoration center. This agreement is the culmination of two years of work with PENNVEST toward the Mussels for Clean Water Initiative (MuCWI).

PENNVEST is investing up to$7.9 million for the planning, design, and construction of the hatchery, which is expected to break ground next year at Bartram’s Garden in Philadelphia. The project also includes construction of facilities needed for raising mussels in ponds and streams to promote cleaner water.  PDE will unveil plans for MuCWI at an information sharing event on February 19 at Bartram’s Garden, which will also be the kickoff meeting for a technical team that will help guide the project’s success.

The facility may be the first of its kind in the world — a large-scale freshwater mussel hatchery ultimately designed for the promotion of clean water. Mussel beds provide many benefits, such as helping to keep water clear. Every adult mussel filters up to 10 gallons of water a day. However, native freshwater mussel species are some of our most imperiled animals. The decline of natural mussel beds makes it that much harder to maintain a healthy ecosystem.

“The hatchery will allow us to really see what mussels can do to make our rivers and streams healthier,” PDE Executive Director Jennifer Adkins said. “PENNVEST’s willingness to invest in such an innovative new approach to improving water quality is outstanding.”

 The goal of MuCWI is to restore freshwater mussel populations in rivers and streams to help filter particulate pollutants. This promotes water clarity and healthier waterways throughout the tristate area.

“A healthy and robust bed of freshwater mussels is something to behold, and we’re now beginning to understand that natural mussel beds provide important benefits to ecosystems, fisheries and people — similar to the highly touted benefits that oyster reefs play in saltwater bays,” PDE Science Director Danielle Kreeger said.  “Although there are still important scientific questions to resolve, investments in mussel beds in the right places should help us address clean water goals, promote ecological sustainability, and they might even help save money on water treatment.”

While working with partners such as Bartram’s Garden and the Philadelphia Water Department, PDE aims to begin producing mussels at the new facility in 2023, with annual production rising to a half million mussels per year within a few years. Hatchery-produced baby mussels will first be reared in nursery ponds and then relocated to appropriate restoration sites in the Delaware and Susquehanna watersheds. Specific locations and species will depend on funding, which still needs to be raised for post-construction activities.

PDE and partners expect that the MuCWI hatchery will additionally serve as a new hub to support the Aquatic Research and Restoration Center, a collaborative working agreement announced in 2018 among PDE, Philadelphia Water Department, Fairmount Water Works, Philadelphia Department of Parks and Recreation,Drexel University’s College of Arts and Sciences, the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, the Independence Seaport Museum and Bartram’s Garden. Leveraged elements of the MuCWI are expected to include innovative research to advance the restoration of urban waterways. At the same time, the endeavor could engage students of all ages and community scientists.

“In addition to the impact on our watershed, this is a wonderful opportunity to inspire the thousands of students who visit Bartram’s Garden each year,” said Bartram’s Garden Executive Director Maitreyi Roy. “Connecting our local youth with the daily work of scientific research and watershed health will allow them to imagine their own connection to the river and its future.” 

This initiative would not be possible without the work by many other partners that have assisted with the Freshwater Mussel Recovery Program over the past 12 years.  For example, for the past two years, PDE and partners Philadelphia Water Department, Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University and Fairmount Water Works have operated a small-scale mussel hatchery as a public exhibit and research lab at the Fairmount Water Works in Philadelphia. This lab will continue to operate during and after construction of the larger production hatchery, continuing to demonstrate the importance of freshwater mussels for students and visitors.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a member of the Delaware Estuary Program steering committee and supports clean water goals consistent with this project’s objectives, per PDE’s Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan for the Delaware Estuary (CCMP). PDE is extremely grateful to PENNVEST for its significant investment in the environment and looks forward to working with established and new partners to design and implement specific mussel restoration projects in the southeastern and south-central Pennsylvania, and vicinity. 


For more information about the Mussels for Clean Water Initiative, please visit http://www.delawareestuary.org/science-and-research/mussels-clean-water-initiative-mucwi/

You may also visit PDE's website at www.delawareestuary.org