Anacostia River Puts New Muscle into Mussel Population

Young freshwater mussels are deployed in floating baskets on the river. Photo: Anacostia Watershed Society

Mussels are the new oysters, when it comes to shellfish restoration. The Anacostia River is getting a $33,000 grant to build its freshwater mussel population. 

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the grant Thursday for the Anacostia River Freshwater Mussel Restoration Project. Its goal is to restore freshwater mussels that will contribute to better water quality, as natural filters, and biodiversity in the Anacostia Watershed. The grant will also allow the Anacostia Watershed Society (AWS) to educate 500 people, half of them students, about the importance of mussels.

“This project will accelerate progress towards achieving a fishable and swimmable river by utilizing mussels to filter 26 million gallons of water,” said AWS Director of Development Emily Conrad.

That’s the equivalent of 39 Olympic-size swimming pools per year.

“EPA is pleased to support this project which we hope will lay the groundwork for future mussel restoration efforts,” said EPA Regional Administrator Cosmo Servidio.

The AWS grant was among 59 Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration Program grants awarded, totaling $2.2 million to restore wildlife habitat and urban waters in 30 states and the District of Columbia. Local groups have committed $5.2 million more to the projects, for a total of more than $7.4 million.

The 2018 grant winners were selected from a highly competitive pool of more than 250 applications. A full list of 2018 projects is available here.

-Meg Walburn Viviano