NORFOLK, Va. – A program to be signed by the Corps of Engineers on May 24 will be the first of its kind in the country and will once again allow impacts to healthy river bottom on the Elizabeth River to go forward while developers offset the impacts by cleaning up some of the contaminated “goo” elsewhere on the river.
Aboard a Corps of Engineers vessel that will pause ceremonially in the middle of the Elizabeth River, Col. Jason E. Kelly, District Commander, will sign paperwork to authorize a non-profit, the Living River Restoration Trust, based in Portsmouth, Va., to work with developers to mitigate impacts to the river bottom.
The program will be the first in the US to provide for mitigation of river bottom or “subaqueous” impacts by funding restoration of healthy river bottom elsewhere. Officially titled an “in lieu fee” program, it works similar to a wetlands bank. These banks already exist throughout the country to mitigate impacts to wetlands and streams.
As with wetlands banking, contractors would have the option to buy “credits” that would permit impacts elsewhere on the river.
This new program actually replaces one recently revised to meet changes in federal mitigation rules. Under the previous program, through a mitigation payment to build the former APM-Maersk marine terminal, the Living River Restoration Trust restored health to one of the most contaminated spots on the Elizabeth River at Money Point.
“As he departs for a new assignment, Colonel Kelly is leaving an important legacy on this urban river by authorizing this precedent setting effort to keep the goo going,” said Marjorie Mayfield Jackson, Executive Director of the Elizabeth River Project, a sister non-profit to the newer Living River Restoration Trust. “The goo must go” is a long-time slogan of the two organizations.
“A healthy river bottom is even more important than wetlands to the continued restoration of the river. The life along the river bottom forms the foundation of the food chain,” said Diana L. Bailey, chair of the Living River Restoration Trust. “We are grateful for our partnership with the Corps and the maritime community to keep this important effort moving forward.”
“For the past three years my office has overlooked the Elizabeth River, and in signing this authorization I know that restoration efforts along this vital Virginia estuary will continue long after my departure from the Norfolk District,” said Col. Jason Kelly, Norfolk District commander.
The Corps and the Living River Restoration Trust will mark the achievement in a signing ceremony held aboard a vessel offshore of the Norfolk District in the Elizabeth River on May 24, at 10 a.m.