Big plans await Virginia Beach’s Lynnhaven Inlet

Norfolk District Public Affairs Office
Published Oct. 23, 2012

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – In a continuing effort to reduce annual costs associated with maintaining federal navigation channels in the Commonwealth of Virginia, the Norfolk District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is conducting a federal interest determination study at the entrance of the Lynnhaven Inlet.

The federal study will determine if jetties or a combination of coastal structures is cost-effective in reducing critical shoaling and annual costs of maintaining the navigation channel, as well as reducing damages incurred on structures in the channel due to continuous wave action.

Each year, the Lynnhaven Inlet, located on the Chesapeake Bay within the city of Virginia Beach, Va., requires annual dredging of dangerous shoaling and full maintenance-dredging about every three years.

The navigation project provides access to the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean for commercial fishing vessels,  charter fishing boats, head boats, provides access for pilots who support the deep draft navigation channels as well as a wide variety of recreational vessels, said Kristin Mazur, project manager for Norfolk District.

“The inlet is used by the pilot boats for both the Virginia and Maryland stations based inside the inlet to transport pilots from their dock to deep draft ships entering the Chesapeake Bay,” Mazur said.

Once a determination is made that there is federal interest, Mazur will gain approval from the North Atlantic Division office and execute a signed Federal Cost Sharing Agreement with the local sponsor. “Next, we’ll study a number of coastal structural alternatives, using newfound and previously documented data that helps us develop an economically justified, engineering feasible and environmentally acceptable plan,” Mazur said.

The Lynnhaven Inlet Jetties Federal Navigation Project is a Continuing Authorities Program, or CAP, Section 107 Navigation Project, authorized by the River and Harbor Act of Oct. 23, 1962.

At the request of local interests, Corps assistance in developing and implementing solutions to water resources problems is available under one of two Congressional authorities. Problems which are large in scope require specific Congressional authorization; however, in instances where problems are generally “small” in scope, the Corps may act directly and more quickly under its Continuing Authorities Program. 

Once the feasibility study is completed, Mazur’s project delivery team will prepare a Detailed Project Report that captures all data and recommendations, including proposed cost-sharing of project design and construction with the project’s co-sponsor, the city of Virginia Beach.

“Right now we anticipate a 50-50 cost share participation with the local sponsor, the city of Virginia Beach and the federal government, for the feasibility study,” Mazur said. “The first $100,000 of the costs, which is used for determining the proposed project’s federal interest, is 100 percent federally funded.”

Meantime, the city of Virginia Beach is developing plans to replace the old Lesner Bridge, which spans the Lynnhaven Inlet off of the Chesapeake Bay. Though recent rehabilitation and current maintenance have extended the life of the bridge, the harsh marine environment has caused extensive corrosion to portions of the existing bridge and made it structurally deficient and functionally obsolete. 

The proposed twin replacement bridges will each feature a 53-foot eight-inch wide deck that will accommodate two lanes of traffic, with appropriate shoulders on each side and a multi-use path in each direction.

Frank Boterdo, a resident of Virginia Beach and a U.S. Navy retiree, fishes along the Lynnhaven Inlet beachfront.

“The bridge definitely needs replacement, and I hope the Corps’ plans to reduce shoaling in the inlet won’t drive the fish away,” Boterdo said. “I’ve been fishing this waterway for years and the fish are plentiful. If your study ends up better protecting the shoreline from erosion and our ability to fish, then that’s a great improvement.”

The Lynnhaven Inlet Jetties Federal Navigation Project will include a comprehensive environmental assessment that addresses all compliance issues required by the National Environmental Policy Act, The Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act.

Once the city’s plans are finalized for the new Lesner Bridge, Mazur said, her team will be better positioned to determine and recommend which types of coastal structures will most benefit the new Lynnhaven Inlet footprint.