US Army Corps of Engineers
Norfolk District

Elizabeth River Southern Branch Navigation Improvements Project Study

Published April 26, 2019

Project scope:

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Virginia Port Authority are preparing an integrated General Re-evaluation Report (GRR) and Environmental Assessment to examine whether navigation improvements to the Elizabeth River and Southern Branch are in the federal interest. The project consists of the evaluation of deepening and widening portions of three segments of the Elizabeth River and its Southern Branch.

The GRR allows for reformulation of the originally authorized plan, as appropriate, to develop a new alternative for implementation. This includes a determination of whether the project is still economically justified, environmentally acceptable, technically appropriate and adequately supported by nonfederal interests.

The potential project alternatives are to deepen and potentially widen portions of the channels in the project area (the Elizabeth River Channel, the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River Channel and associated turning basins). The channels would potentially be deepened from their existing 40- and 35-foot depth up to, or in excess of, the authorized project depths of 45 and 40 feet, respectively. 

The potential project alternatives would also include an evaluation of alternatives for dredged material disposal. The current stage of the study process is the development of alternative project plans. The report is anticipated to include an Environmental Assessment that will describe environmental impacts of the project alternatives and will determine the potential for significant impacts. 


This GRR study is authorized by Section 201 of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 1986 (Public Law 99-662).

Project news:

USACE and the Virginia Port Authority held a public scoping meeting Sept. 24, 2015 at Nauticus. The purpose of the meeting was to provide an opportunity for the public to learn more about the study and to solicit help in identifying issues, alternatives, and potentially significant impacts to be considered in the analysis. 

Posters that described the need for the study and how the public can participate and comment on the study were displayed at the meeting. Participants from public as well as state, federal, and local agencies and local environmental groups attended the meeting and were invited to provide comments.

Project sponsor:

USACE is the lead federal agency for this study and the commonwealth of Virginia acting through its agent, the Virginia Port Authority, is the study's nonfederal sponsor. 

Project study area:

The Elizabeth River main stem and its Southern Branch are located in the southeastern part of Virginia at the southern end of Chesapeake Bay, midway on the Atlantic Seaboard (about 170 miles south of Baltimore and 220 miles north of Wilmington, North Carolina). 

The Southern Branch of Elizabeth River is a 14.5-mile river in Virginia. It flows from south to north through the city of Chesapeake and forms the boundary between the cities of Portsmouth and Chesapeake for its northernmost 3 miles. It connects with the Elizabeth River main stem and continues into the Hampton Roads harbor. The project area is also part of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, connecting to the North Landing River, which flows into North Carolina.

Schedule: TBD

Project contact:

For more information on the study, contact the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Norfolk District, 803 Front Street, Norfolk, Virginia 23510-1096. Telephone: 757-201-7606.