On December 12 2017 the Port of Virginia and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Norfolk District released the Draft General Reevaluation Report and Environmental Assessment (EA) for the Elizabeth River and Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River Navigation Improvements project. The selected plan includes deepening different parts of the channel from 40 to 45 feet and 40 to 42 feet 35 to 39 feet and maintaining the rest of the channel at 35 feet.
The Elizabeth River and Southern Branch Navigation Improvements study area encompasses the Federally improved channel from Lamberts Bend to the Chesapeake Extension in the Elizabeth River Virginia.
Deepening the existing channel to various depths was evaluated and two Action Project Alternatives (a National Economic Development Plan and a Locally Preferred Plan) were evaluated in detail as well as the No Action/Future Without-Project Alternative.
The Virginia Port Authority (VPA) requested the re-evaluation of a portion of the project which was authorized under Section 201 of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 1986 (Public Law 99-662) for the construction of the Norfolk Harbor and Channels Virginia. The project was dated July18 1985 and entitled “Norfolk Harbor and Channels Virginia.” The original authorization included channel deepening from 45 to 55 feet within the Thimble Shoal Channel and the Norfolk Harbor Channel (northern portion of the Main Branch of the Elizabeth River) and 57 feet within the Atlantic Ocean Channel. It also included channel deepening from 40 to 45 feet in the Main Branch of the Elizabeth River and the upper portion of the Elizabeth River Southern Branch and 35 to 40 feet in the Elizabeth River Southern Branch (ERSB). Since being authorized the Thimble Shoal and Norfolk Harbor Channels were deepened to 50 feet and the Atlantic Ocean Channel to 52 feet. There have been no authorized channel improvements to the ERSB channel segments; however the Department of the Navy did deepen a portion of the existing 40-foot channel to a depth of 47 feet for national defense purposes. This study is being conducted under Section 216 of the Flood Control Act of 1970 (Public Law 91-611) which authorizes the review of completed projects in the interest of navigation and related purposes to determine the feasibility of further port deepening.
Comments concerning the EA are required by January 15.