About This Project: Lynnhaven River Basin Ecosystem Restoration Project

Norfolk District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Published Oct. 9, 2018
Updated: April 13, 2021


For decades, the Lynnhaven River has been impaired to a point in which oysters and other fish caught in the estuary could not be consumed; however, through the efforts of the City of Virginia Beach, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and groups like Lynnhaven River NOW, the river has rebounded. This project will continue to enhance the health of the river for all people who utilize it.

The removal of invasive species will bring back quality wetlands that help to clean and store runoff prior to it entering the waterway. These wetlands will add to the environmental health of the Lynnhaven River.

The creation of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) benefits the rover system with restored habitat for fish and other marine life, as well as improves the overall water quality for all users of the waterway.

Creation of additional oyster reefs in the sanctuary will continue to improve the water quality, as well as increase the overall oyster population of the Lynnhaven River, not only on the reefs managed by the city, but throughout the estuary. 

USACE began planning in 2005 and presented the project to the City of Virginia Beach in 2009. A feasibility report and environmental assessment were completed in 2013. In 2016, leases were obtained by the city as potential sites were identified. Public meetings were conducted in 2018 and 2019.

The Lynnhaven River Basin Ecosystem Restoration Project, through multiple phases, is slated to restore habitat in 38 acres of wetlands; 94 acres of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) critical to the ecosystem; and 31 acres of reef habitat which is home to many fish and benthic species in the largest estuary in the City of Virginia Beach.

Phase 1 of the project includes all three habitats: reef, wetland and SAV habitat.

Phase 1 Reef habitat restoration is located in Lynnhaven Bay near Keeling Cove and restores up to eight acres of habitat.

Phase 1 Wetland restoration will result in 7.1 acres of restored wetlands and riparian buffer.  This restoration site is located along Thalia Creek adjacent to Princess Anne High School and will become a future Outdoor Living Classroom for the City of Virginia Beach Schools.

Phase 1 Submerged Aquatic Vegetation restoration will restore 6.3 acres of SAV and includes a fringe reef at the site. The Virginia Institute of Marine Science will be planting the site and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation will donate the reef structures.

The project was originally authorized for study through a resolution by the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure of the U.S. House of Representatives, Docket 2558, adopted May 6, 1998. A comprehensive feasibility study conducted from September 2004 to 2013 included scientific research, as well as public and stakeholder input, found the project feasible. The final report to Congress is available at, https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CDOC-113hdoc176/pdf/CDOC-113hdoc176.pdf

As laid out in Executive Order 13508 -- Chesapeake Bay Protection and Restoration, and again in the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Agreement , the Lynnhaven River is a “Priority” tributary and has been identified as one of 10 tributaries to be restored by the year 2025.

This project addresses the agreement’s five critical goals:

Abundant Life - Ensure sustainable populations of finfish, shellfish, and other living creatures; the restoration of habitats where those creatures live and feed; and a balanced ecosystem network.

Clean Water - Reduce nutrient pollution to achieve water quality that can support aquatic life; free the bay and its tributaries from the effects of toxic pollution, not just nutrients; and sustain healthy sub-watersheds.

Climate Change - Increase the resiliency of the bay and tributaries to withstand changing weather and the impacts it will bring.

Conserved Lands - Conserve working forests, farms, maritime communities and lands with cultural and other values.

Engaged Communities - Increase public involvement in bay stewardship; expand public access to the bay; enable environmentally literate students to graduate from high school.