Virginia Beach project temporarily halted

Work to resume on oceanfront’s North End after sea-turtle migration

Norfolk District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Published Sept. 4, 2019
Updated: Sept. 4, 2019
A coastal research amphibious buggy drive to the shoreline from the ocean

A coastal research amphibious buggy conducts survey operations as dredging continues is support of the Virginia Beach Hurricane and Storm Damage Reduction Project at the Virginia Beach oceanfront, Virginia, Aug. 1, 2019. Crews will be placing approximately 1.4 million cubic yards of sand on the beach, widening it and raising it to 9 feet above sea-level, back to it's original width and height. (U.S. Army photo by Andria Allmond)

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – Reinforcing nearly 75% of the oceanfront in roughly two months, the Virginia Beach Hurricane and Storm Damage Reduction Project has come to a halt.

In late June, the city of Virginia Beach and Norfolk District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began the placement of approximately 1.4 million cubic yards of sand – a periodic construction that has prevented more than $450 million in coastal-infrastructure damage according to project management. 

The Norfolk District engineering operation was established to create a better place to work and live for the local beach community – including marine life.

Will brake for turtles

Due to a district-imposed time-of-year restriction during peak sea-turtle migration season, sand-borrow operations halted Sunday and may resume in mid-November. 

Multiple measures have been taken to protect turtles during the project. 

National Marine Fisheries Service-approved endangered-species observers are aboard the dredge 24/7 to serve as lookout and inspect dredge loads. The observers may launch a work-stop order upon spotting specific species. Also, the dredge itself is subject to speed restrictions.

On the shore, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service-approved endangered species observers patrol beach placement areas throughout the night in search a sea turtles or their nests. If found, sand placement discontinues. 

“Nest disturbances are strictly prohibited and punishable by law,” said Shannon Reinheimer, Norfolk District environmental scientist. “If a sea turtle or a nest is found within the project area, sand placement is stopped until coordination with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determines the safest path for that nest. 

“U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service makes the call whether to relocate the nest or leave the nest and avoid the area. Sand is never allowed to be placed on top of or around a known sea-turtle nest.” 

While the coastal-community benefits are significant, officials say, some residents may witness the drudgery required to maintain a safe shoreline.

North End to prep for pipes, pumping

Dredging and sand-placement crews may remobilize near 49th Street after the restriction period ends. Having completed the construction area’s southern half, the shoreline north of approximately 50th Street is the final push.

Heavy machinery, slurry pumping, shoreline pipe. Residents and tourists in the North End can expect the same backdrop seen by those in the completed areas.

A pump and bulldozer move slurry around the shore as a hopper dredge is in the background during a beach renourishment operation
Virginia Beach oceanfront renourishment continues with help from city, Norfolk District
The Virginia Beach Hurricane Protection and Storm Damage Reduction Project takes place at 37th Street in Virginia Beach, Virginia, July 31, 2019. THe project is comprised of three parts: a widened 100 foot beach at 9-feet above sea level with a gradual slope to sea level, seawall/sand dune system, and an intricate network of storm drains and pump stations to remove water from upland areas.(U.S. Army photo by Andria Allmond)
Photo By: Andria Allmond
VIRIN: 190731-A-SO401-1013

“What we need to keep in mind is that this project is critical if we want to live in a coastal area,” said Kristin Mazur, district project manager. “Yes, there are going to be degrees of impact on residents during this project: areas of the beach will be closed off during active work; there will be a pipe that remains on the shoreline throughout the project; crews will continue to work around-the-clock, and reaching the shore may require using access ramps over the pipe.”

Norfolk District will continue to inform the public on progress and updates using its social media platforms, she added.

'Our goal has been unwavering from the start'

While the project’s contract extends to Feb. 23, it’s hopeful all construction will be concluded by year’s end, according to James Campbell, district contracting officer representative.

“We, of course, want the project to run as smoothly as possible and finish by the end of the year,” Campbell said. “But, we need to be realists here and recognize there are factors outside our control that may affect the rate of completion.”

Bad weather conditions, equipment malfunction and dredge availability are all items that could push work into the New Year.

In either case, the project’s end result is the same.

Woman on left taking notes as woman on right holds hand full of sand
Quality of sand an important part of Virginia Beach renourishment
Kristin Mazur, Norfolk District project manager, explains beach-quality sand during an interview regarding the Virginia Beach Hurricane and Storm Damage Reduction Project at the Virginia Beach oceanfront, Virginia, Aug. 2, 2019. Crews will be halting operations from Sept. 2 until mid-November in accordance with Norfolk District time-of-year restrictions for sea turtles. (U.S. Army photo by Andria Allmond)
Photo By: Andria Allmond
VIRIN: 190802-A-SO401-1001

“Our goal has been unwavering from the start — we’ll do what needs to be done to reduce hurricane and storm damage to the infrastructure of the oceanfront,” Mazur said. “We didn’t have an option in the timing of the project; we won’t compromise the expertise of the contractor doing the work; but, we will continue to work with our partners to deliver this engineering solution to help safeguard the community.”

The project, slated to widen the beach from 15th to 70th streets, has been moving north and cordoning off about two blocks at a time. With only small portions of the beach inaccessible, the work may impact up to 20 streets at a time due to the shoreline pipe required for sand placement.