On July 2, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Norfolk District issued its final Chief of Engineers Report authorization to move forward with a project to widen and deepen Norfolk Harbor, approving the project for inclusion in the next federal Water Resources Development Act.
The dredging project will take the channels to 55 feet deep and widen the channels in select areas to allow for two-way traffic of ultra-large container vessels.
The project will be executed in two phases. The preliminary engineering and design ($20 million) is the first phase and is expected to take 18-24 months and the dredging phase ($330 million), which has a 2024 target completion date.
Virginia Gov. Ralph S. Northam and both legislative chambers agreed in June to invest $350 million to deepen the harbor.
The Chief’s Report completes an effort that began in 1986, when the port was given authorization in the federal Water Resources Development Act to deepen the Norfolk Harbor to 55 feet. In June 2015, the port and the Army Corps’ Norfolk District office signed the Feasibility Cost-Share Agreement and began collaborating on the Wider, Deeper, Safer effort.
Lieutenant General Todd Semonite, Chief of Engineers, said the speed at which this project moved through the three-year study, review and approval stages is an example of how the Army Corps of Engineers is streamlining its process.
“Our Corps team from Norfolk and headquarters expedited this process,” Semonite said. “Old processes would have kept us on a timeline to complete in December 2018. We streamlined this through collaboration between the district and HQ and in doing so, cut review times in half while incorporating real-time engagement across the Corps in the development of this report.
“This allowed the Corps to provide a quality product by June 2018, six months ahead of the planned schedule. This is a critical project that energizes the economy while at same time ensuring we are protecting the environment.”