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 have completed a Validation Study and Environmental Assessment to examine navigation improvements to the Elizabeth River and Southern Branch. 

The study 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 feasibility-level re-evaluation effort was completed in 2018 with a Director's Report. The recommended project consists of deepening the 40-foot channel on the Elizabeth River and Southern Branch to 45 feet and 42 feet, and a portion of the 35-foot channel on the Southern Branch to 39 feet. These deeper channels would allow vessels to fully load various commodities that move in and out of the waterway. 


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

Project sponsor:

USACE is the lead federal agency 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 in southeastern Virginia at the Chesapeake Bay's southern end, 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 stretch in Virginia. It flows south to north through the city of Chesapeake and forms the boundary between 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 Norfolk District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 803 Front St., Norfolk, Virginia 23510-1096. Telephone: 757-201-7606.