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Virginia Port Authority’s Va. International Gateway New Dredging Project Detailed

Posted on May 24, 2024

The District Commander has received a joint permit application for Federal and State permits as described below:

Jeff Fisher, Chief Engineer
Virginia Port Authority
600 World Trade Center
Norfolk, VA 23510

PROJECT LOCATION:  Virginia International Gateway, 1000 Virginia International Gateway Blvd., Portsmouth, VA 23703



LATITUDE AND LONGITUDE: 36.877500, -76.4858333

The Virginia Port Authority (VPA) is proposing to perform new and maintenance dredging by mechanical and/or hydraulic methods to widen and deepen the 3,962 foot approach channel and berthing areas at its leased facility known as Virginia International Gateway (VIG) on the Elizabeth River in Portsmouth, Virginia to provide safe navigation for the Ultra Large Container Vessels.

This project includes the following activities:  (1) the maintenance dredging of the previously permitted approach channel of 144.6 acres to depths of -52 ft MLW and -57 ft MLW  (2) the new dredging to widen the 3,962 foot approach channel from 600 ft to 900 ft on both the North (25.2 acres) and the South (22.7 acres) of the approach channel to a maximum depth of -58 ft MLW  (3) the new dredging to deepen the previously permitted approach channel and berthing area of 144.6 acres to a maximum depth of -58 ft MLW (4) the dredge material is proposed to be: hydraulically pumped to Craney Island Dredge Material Management Area (CIDMMA), barged to Craney Island Rehandling Basin, barged to Norfolk Ocean Disposal Site (NODS), and/or an approved upland disposal location (5) the future maintenance dredging of the entire 192.5 acres, on an as-needed basis- within the time limit of the permit, to maintain the maximum depth of -58 ft MLW of the approach channel and berthing areas.

The Virginia Port Authority estimates that approximately 4.5 million cubic yards of material will be removed from the 192.5 acre VIG site during the 10-year maintenance cycle with approximately 2.7 million cubic yards of dredge material removed initially and 900,000 cubic yards of dredge material removed per maintenance cycle.

The proposed dredging footprint has been designed to limit the impacts and will not impact wetlands, submerged aquatic vegetation, or shallow water habitat.  The proposed depths are consistent with the design depths within the adjacent Federal Navigation Channel.

The dredge material has been sampled and analyzed for placement at NODS and/or CIDDMA.

Compensatory mitigation is not proposed.

In addition, the applicant must obtain an Individual Section 401 Water Quality Certification or waiver from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) assuring that applicable laws and regulations pertaining to water quality are not violated.

A copy of the joint permit application can be found on the Virginia Marine Resources Commission’s website (Click here).

(X)      Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 (33 U.S.C. 403).
(X)      Sections 401 and 404 of the Clean Water Act (Public Law 95-217) and Title 62.1 of the Code of Virginia.
(X)      Section 103 of the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act of 1972 (33 U.S.C. 1413).
(X)      Section 14 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 (33 U.S.C. 408 (Section 408)).

The decision whether to issue a permit will be based on an evaluation of the probable impact including cumulative impacts of the proposed activity on the public interest.  The decision will reflect the national concern for both protection and utilization of important resources.  The benefits which reasonably may be expected from the proposal must be balanced against its reasonably foreseeable detriments.  All of the proposal’s relevant factors will be considered, including conservation, economics, aesthetics, general environmental concerns, wetlands, cultural values, fish and wildlife values, flood hazards, flood plain values, land use, navigation, shoreline erosion and accretion, recreation, water supply and conservation, water quality, energy needs, safety, food and fiber production, mineral needs, consideration of property ownership and, in general, the needs and welfare of the people.  The Environmental Protection Agency’s “Guidelines for Specification of Disposal Sites for Dredged or Fill Material” will also be applied (Section 404(b)(1) of the Clean Water Act).

The Corps of Engineers is soliciting comments from the public, federal, state, and local agencies and officials; Indian Tribes; and other interested parties in order to consider and evaluate the direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts of this proposed activity.  Any comments received will be considered by the Corps of Engineers to determine whether to issue, modify, condition, or deny a permit for this proposal.  To make this decision, comments are used to assess impacts on endangered species, historic properties, water quality, general environmental effects, and the other public interest factors listed above.  Comments are used in the preparation of an Environmental Assessment and/or an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act.  Preliminary review of the application indicates that no EIS will be required.

Comments are also used to determine the need for a public hearing and to determine the overall public interest of the proposed activity.  Anyone may request a public hearing to consider this permit application by writing to the District Commander within 30 days of the date of this notice, stating specific reasons for holding the public hearing.  The District Commander will then decide if a hearing should be held.

After conducting the Norfolk District Endangered Species Act (ESA) Project Review Process, the Corps has made the preliminary determination that:

There may be an effect to listed/proposed/candidate species and/or designated/proposed critical habitat under the ESA of 1973. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Information and Planning and Consultation (IPaC) Official Species List and Species Conclusion Table are attached for review and comment by the FWS and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).

Additional information might change any of these findings.

Historic Resources eligible for inclusion or included in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) are in or near the Corps permit area or would likely be affected by the proposal.

Additional information may change any of these findings.

The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, as amended by the Sustainable Fisheries Act of 1996 (Public Law 104-267), requires all Federal agencies to consult with the NMFS on all actions, or proposed actions, permitted, funded, or undertaken by the agency, that may adversely affect Essential Fish Habitat (EFH).

The Elizabeth River contains EFH for the egg, juvenile, neonate, and/or adult life stages of 11 species including Little Skate, Atlantic Herring, Red Hake, Winter Skate, Clearnose Skate, Windowpane Flounder, Sandbar Shark, Bluefish, Atlantic Butterfish, Summer Flounder, and Black Sea Bass.  In addition, the following anadromous fishes utilize this waterway – striped Bass, blueback Herring, and yellow Perch.  The affected habitat consists of the water column in the vicinity of dredging operations due to increased turbidity; however, turbidity levels expected for hydraulic dredging (up to 550.0 mg/L) and mechanical dredging (up to 445.0 mg/L) are below those shown to have adverse effect on fish (typically up to 1,000.0 mg/L; Burton 1993; Wilber and Clarke 2001).  The proposed project is described in Proposed Work and Purpose, above.  Our assessment of the project leads us to a preliminary determination that the project will not have a substantial adverse effect on EFH and therefore expanded EFH consultation is not required.  Our rationale for this preliminary determination is based on the expected short-term nature of the direct impacts, turbidity increases that are below the values shown to have adverse effects on fish, the absence of vegetated wetlands, submerged aquatic vegetation, anadromous fish spawning habitat and unsuitable substrate in the action area.  In addition, the width of the waterway (approximately 1.7 miles) provides a sufficient zone of passage for EFH and migrating anadromous species to avoid the project vicinity during dredging activities. Based on comments from the NMFS in response to this public notice, further EFH consultation may be necessary.

For compliance with the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972, as amended for projects located in Virginia’s Coastal Zone, the applicant must certify that federally licensed or permitted activities affecting Virginia’s coastal uses or resources will be conducted in a manner consistent with the Virginia’s Coastal Zone Management Program (Virginia CZM Program), and obtain concurrence from the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), Office of Environmental Impact Review (OEIR). It is the applicant’s responsibility to submit a consistency certification to the OEIR for concurrence or objection, and proof of concurrence must be submitted to the Corps prior to final permit issuance. A template federal consistency certification can be found in the Federal Consistency Manual here:

For more information or to obtain a list of the enforceable policies of the Virginia CZM Program, contact the DEQ-OEIR at (804) 659-1915 or e-mail:

The applicant has submitted concurrence.

The Norfolk District Operations Branch granted permission for this proposed project on September 15, 2023, pursuant to Section 14 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, 33 U.S.C. 408, (Section 408) via Section 408 Request ID 408-NAO-2022-0084. Based on this Section 408 Permission and subject to the final DA permit authorization (DA Application No. NAO-2002-03818), the Norfolk District determined the proposed project would alter the Craney Island Reach of the Norfolk Harbor and Channels Federal Navigation Project (Sewells Point to Lamberts Bend) and the Craney Island Dredge Material Management Area (CIDMMA) Federal Project (federal projects), both of which are operated and maintained by Norfolk District, but would not impair the usefulness or harm the public interest of the federal projects. Any questions specific the Section 408 Permission should be submitted directly to and copied to the Regulatory contact noted in the Comment Period section below.

Pursuant to Section 103 of the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act (MPRSA) of 1972 and USACE policy 33 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 337.1, this Public Notice serves as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Norfolk District (Corps) notification relating to proposed transport for the purpose of disposal of suitable dredged material from a phase of dredging the southern portion of the CIEE PRE-Dredge and Access Areas encompassing 3 million cubic yards (MCY) at the NODS. Future construction phases of CIEE Pre-Dredge and Access Channel areas will be evaluated under Section 103 of the MPRSA to determine suitability for ocean placement.

The NODS was designated by the USEPA pursuant to Section 102(c) of MPRSA for the ocean placement of suitable dredged material. The final rule was promulgated by the USEPA on July 2, 1993 (FR. Vol. 58 No. 126), effective July 2, 1993. Dredged material proposed for transport for the purpose of disposal at the NODS must be evaluated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in accordance with part 227 of the MPRSA, Section 103 and processed in accordance with 33 CFR 324. The use of NODS is contingent upon USEPA, Region 3 review and concurrence that the dredged material meets MPRSA criteria (40 CFR 227).

The NODS is located in the Atlantic Ocean approximately 17 statute miles east of Cape Henry. The center point coordinate of the NODS is latitude 36°59’00” North and longitude 75°39’00” West. The site is circular with a radius of 4 nautical miles and has an area of approximately 50 square nautical miles. Water depth within the NODS ranges from -42 to -85 ft MLLW. The site has unlimited capacity and is designated to provide capacity for long-term management of dredged material from the lower Chesapeake Bay and suitable materials from Norfolk Harbor (USEPA 1992). Any dredged material that passes ocean placement criteria may be placed at the NODS.

Prior to 2008, the NODS was solely used by the U.S. Navy. In August 1993, approximately 51,000 cubic yards (CY) of dredged material from the Naval Supply Center Cheatham Annex and 475,000 CY of dredged material from the Naval Weapons Station Yorktown were placed at the site. Since 2010, other projects that have been recently placed at the NODS include the VDOT – Midtown Tunnel (1,121,642 CY placed October 2013 to October 2014), Joint Base Langley Eustis (JBLE) – Skiffes Creek Channel (128,244 CY placed November 2014 to December 2014), JBLE – Fuel Pier Basin (57,122 CY placed February 2019 to July 2019), the JBLE – Back River Channel (125,723 CY placed February 2019 to July 2019), and Norfolk Harbor Channels 50-ft Maintenance (ongoing). Other projects that have been previously permitted for placement at the NODS include CIEE (24.5 MCY), Yorktown Naval Weapons Station (65,000 CY), Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel – Parallel Thimble Shoals Tunnel Project (1.7 MCY), Cheatham Annex CAD-A Pier (88,000 CY), Naval Weapons Stations Yorktown R3 Pier (110,000 CY), Norfolk Harbor Navigation Improvements Project (12.1 MCY), and Portsmouth Marine Terminal (216,737 CY).

There have been no documented effects from the authorized discharges that have been made in the placement area.

Sediments proposed for dredging consist of maintenance and new work dredged material in the Virginia International Gateway Terminal located in Portsmouth, Virginia. Grain size of the dredged material in the project area varies and includes components of silt and clay (ranging from approximately 47 to 97 percent silt/clay) and fine sands and gravels. The dredged material proposed for placement at NODS does not meet the testing exclusionary criteria set forth under 40 CFR 227.13(b). Subsequent dredged material testing of the VIG project area detected the presence of metals, dioxin/furan congeners, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), chlorinated pesticides, and semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs) were detected in the bulk sediments from the VIG project area.

Dredged material from the VIG project area was tested for liquid phase, liquid and suspended particulate phase, and solid phase (e.g., benthic toxicity and benthic bioaccumulation) using criteria and procedures developed by the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in accordance with 40 CFR 220-228. Evaluation of the liquid phase dredged material has determined the material from the VIG Project areas complies with the Limiting Permissible Concentration (LPC) at the NODS and is in compliance with 40 CFR 227.6(c)(1) and 227.27(a)(1). Evaluation of the liquid and suspended particulate phase dredged material has determined the material from the VIG project areas complies with the LPC at the NODS and is in compliance with 40 CFR 227.6(c)(2) and 227.27(b). Evaluation of the solid phase dredged material has determined the material from the VIG project areas complies with the LPC and is in compliance with 40 CFR 227.13(c)(3) , 227.6(c)(3) and 227.27(b) for placement at the NODS. The dredged material from the VIG project areas meets the LPC for benthic bioaccumulation and complies with the benthic criteria of 40 CFR Part 227.13 (c)(3) for placement at NODS. The dredged material as described from the VIG project areas meets the MPRSA criteria (40 CFR 227).

The Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 401 Certification Rule (Certification Rule, 40 CFR 121), effective September 11, 2020, requires certification, or waiver, for any license or permit that authorizes an activity that may result in a discharge. The scope of a CWA Section 401 certification is limited to ensuring that a discharge from a Federally licensed or permitted activity will comply with water quality requirements. To comply with the Virginia Section 401 Water Quality Certification Program and the Certification Rule, the applicant is responsible for adhering to the procedures outlined in the Certification Rule when requesting certification from the certifying authority, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. In accordance with Certification Rule part 121.12, the Corps will notify the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator when it has received a Department of the Army (DA) permit application and the related certification. The Administrator is responsible for determining whether the discharge may affect water quality in a neighboring jurisdiction. The DA permit may not be issued pending the conclusion of the Administrator’s determination of effects on neighboring jurisdictions.

Comments on this project should be in writing and can be sent by either email to, or by regular mail, addressed to the Norfolk District, Corps of Engineers (ATTN:  CENAO-WRR), 803 Front Street, Norfolk, VA  23510-1011, and should be received by the close of business on June 19, 2024.

Comments and information, including the identity of the submitter, submitted in response to this Public Notice may be disclosed, reproduced, and distributed at the discretion of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Information that is submitted in connection with this Public Notice cannot be maintained as confidential by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Submissions should not include any information that the submitter seeks to preserve as confidential.

If you have any questions about this project or the permit process, contact
Ms. Autumn Crawford


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