June 28, 2023
FEDERAL PUBLIC NOTICE
The District Commander has received a joint permit application for Federal and State permits as described below:
Jeff Fisher, Chief Engineer
Virginia Port Authority
600 World Trade Center
Norfolk, VA 23510
PROJECT LOCATION: Virginia International Gateway, 1000 Virginia International Gateway Blvd., Portsmouth, VA 23703
PROJECT SIZE: 136 acres
NEAREST WATERWAY: Elizabeth River
LATITUDE AND LONGITUDE: 36.877500, -76.4858333
PROJECT DESCRIPTION AND PURPOSE:
The proposed project includes the dredging, a combination of new dredging and maintenance dredging, of approximately 136 acres (5,905,400 square feet), within the existing 3,960-foot long approach channel and 4,000-foot long turning basin/berthing area of the Virginia International Gateway (VIG) port terminal facility to deepen the existing area to achieve maximum depths of -58 feet MLLW.
The applicant proposes to pump dredged materials directly from a hydraulic dredge to the upland cells at the Craney Island Dredge Material Management Area (CIDMMA), located at the confluence of the James and Elizabeth Rivers in Portsmouth, VA. The estimated total of 1,148,000 cubic yards of initial dredging includes approximately 200,000 cubic yards of maintenance dredging materials. Of the new dredging, materials consist of approximately 548,000 cubic yards of silts and clays and 400,000 cubic yards of fine sand with shell fragments (Yorktown formation). If capacity is insufficient or unavailable at CIDMMA, the Virginia Port Authority (VPA) may utilize mechanical dredging and place dredged materials within an approved upland placement area for a portion of or all of the dredged materials.
The proposed project includes future maintenance dredging cycles, on an as-needed basis, to maintain depths within the channel and basin to -58 feet MLLW. Three (3) dredging cycles are anticipated with the life of the permit.
The purpose of the project is to provide for safe navigation from the Federal Navigation Channel to the port facility for shipping vessels including Ultra Large Container Vessels (ULCV's).
AVOIDANCE AND MINIMIZATION: The proposed dredging footprint is limited to areas previously dredged. The proposed project will not impact wetlands, submerged aquatic vegetation, or shallow water habitat. Proposed depths are consistent with the design depths within the adjacent Federal Navigation Channel.
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION: Compensatory mitigation is not proposed.
In addition, the applicant must obtain an Individual Section 401 Water Quality Certification or waiver from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) assuring that applicable laws and regulations pertaining to water quality are not violated.
A copy of the joint permit application can be found on the Virginia Marine Resources Commission’s website (click here) and searching for application number 2022-1995.
(x) Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 (33 U.S.C. 403).
() Sections 401 and 404 of the Clean Water Act (Public Law 95-217) and Title 62.1 of the Code of Virginia.
() Section 103 of the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act of 1972 (33 U.S.C. 1413).
FEDERAL EVALUATION OF APPLICATION: The decision whether to issue a permit will be based on an evaluation of the probable impact including cumulative impacts of the proposed activity on the public interest. The decision will reflect the national concern for both protection and utilization of important resources. The benefits which reasonably may be expected from the proposal must be balanced against its reasonably foreseeable detriments. All of the proposal's relevant factors will be considered, including conservation, economics, aesthetics, general environmental concerns, wetlands, cultural values, fish and wildlife values, flood hazards, flood plain values, land use, navigation, shoreline erosion and accretion, recreation, water supply and conservation, water quality, energy needs, safety, food and fiber production, mineral needs, consideration of property ownership and, in general, the needs and welfare of the people. The Environmental Protection Agency's "Guidelines for Specification of Disposal Sites for Dredged or Fill Material" will also be applied (Section 404(b)(1) of the Clean Water Act).
The Corps of Engineers is soliciting comments from the public, federal, state, and local agencies, and officials; Indian Tribes; and other interested parties in order to consider and evaluate the direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts of this proposed activity. Any comments received will be considered by the Corps of Engineers to determine whether to issue, modify, condition, or deny a permit for this proposal. To make this decision, comments are used to assess impacts on endangered species, historic properties, water quality, general environmental effects, and the other public interest factors listed above. Comments are used in the preparation of an Environmental Assessment and/or an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act. Preliminary review of the application indicates that no EIS will be required.
Comments are also used to determine the need for a public hearing and to determine the overall public interest of the proposed activity. Anyone may request a public hearing to consider this permit application by writing to the District Commander within 30 days of the date of this notice, stating specific reasons for holding the public hearing. The District Commander will then decide if a hearing should be held.
ENDANGERED SPECIES: After conducting the Norfolk District Endangered Species Act (ESA) Project Review Process, the Corps has made the preliminary determination that:
The project may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect, listed/proposed/candidate species under the ESA of 1973. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Information and Planning and Consultation (IPaC) Official Species List and Species Conclusion Table are attached for review and comment by the FWS and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).
The affected habitat consists of the water column in the vicinity of dredging operations due to increased turbidity; however, turbidity levels expected for hydraulic dredging (up to 550.0 mg/L) and mechanical dredging (up to 445.0 mg/L) are below those shown to have adverse effect on fish (typically up to 1,000.0 mg/L; Burton 1993; Wilber and Clarke 2001). The proposed project is described in Proposed Work and Purpose, above. Our assessment of the project leads us to a preliminary determination that the project will not have a substantial adverse effect on ESA species and therefore expanded ESA consultation is not required. Our rationale for this preliminary determination is based on the expected short-term nature of the direct impacts, turbidity increases that are below the values shown to have adverse effects on fish, the absence of vegetated wetlands, submerged aquatic vegetation, anadromous fish spawning habitat, and unsuitable substrate in the action area. In addition, the width of the waterway (approximately 1.7 miles) provides a sufficient zone of passage for ESA species to avoid the project vicinity during dredging activities. Based on comments from the NMFS in response to this public notice, further ESA consultation may be necessary.
Additional information might change any of these findings.
HISTORIC AND CULTURAL RESOURCES:
Historic Resources eligible for inclusion or included in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) and a known Battlefield are in or near the Corps permit area and may be affected by the proposed project. The Corps will coordinate with the Virginia Department of Historic Resource (VDHR) and the American Battlefield Protection Program (ABPP) in accordance with Norfolk District procedures.
Additional information may change any of these findings.
ESSENTIAL FISH HABITAT: The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, as amended by the Sustainable Fisheries Act of 1996 (Public Law 104-267), requires all Federal agencies to consult with the NMFS on all actions, or proposed actions, permitted, funded, or undertaken by the agency, that may adversely affect Essential Fish Habitat (EFH).
The Elizabeth River contains EFH for the egg, juvenile, neonate, and/or adult life stages of 11 species including Little Skate, Atlantic Herring, Red Hake, Winter Skate, Clearnose Skate, Windowpane Flounder, Sandbar Shark, Bluefish, Atlantic Butterfish, Summer Flounder, and Black Sea Bass. In addition, the following anadromous fishes utilize this waterway – striped Bass, blueback Herring, and yellow Perch. The affected habitat consists of the water column in the vicinity of dredging operations due to increased turbidity; however, turbidity levels expected for hydraulic dredging (up to 550.0 mg/L) and mechanical dredging (up to 445.0 mg/L) are below those shown to have adverse effect on fish (typically up to 1,000.0 mg/L; Burton 1993; Wilber and Clarke 2001). The proposed project is described in Proposed Work and Purpose, above. Our assessment of the project leads us to a preliminary determination that the project will not have a substantial adverse effect on EFH and therefore expanded EFH consultation is not required. Our rationale for this preliminary determination is based on the expected short-term nature of the direct impacts, turbidity increases that are below the values shown to have adverse effects on fish, the absence of vegetated wetlands, submerged aquatic vegetation, anadromous fish spawning habitat and unsuitable substrate in the action area. In addition, the width of the waterway (approximately 1.7 miles) provides a sufficient zone of passage for EFH and migrating anadromous species to avoid the project vicinity during dredging activities. Based on comments from the NMFS in response to this public notice, further EFH consultation may be necessary.
VIRGINIA’S COASTAL ZONE MANAGEMENT PROGRAM: For compliance with the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972, as amended for projects located in Virginia’s Coastal Zone, the applicant must certify that federally licensed or permitted activities affecting Virginia's coastal uses or resources will be conducted in a manner consistent with the Virginia’s Coastal Zone Management Program (Virginia CZM Program), and obtain concurrence from the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), Office of Environmental Impact Review (OEIR). It is the applicant’s responsibility to submit a consistency certification to the OEIR for concurrence or objection, and proof of concurrence must be submitted to the Corps prior to final permit issuance. A template federal consistency certification can be found in the Federal Consistency Manual here: https://www.deq.virginia.gov/permits-regulations/environmental-impact-review/federal-consistency . For more information or to obtain a list of the enforceable policies of the Virginia CZM Program, contact the DEQ-OEIR at (804) 659-1915 or e-mail: email@example.com. The applicant has not submitted concurrence.
SECTION 408: The Norfolk District Operations Branch has determined that the proposed activity may require permission to alter a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) project pursuant to Section 14 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1889 (33 U.S.C. 408 (Section 408)). We hereby notify interested parties that we have received and are evaluating this request for permission to alter the following federal projects: Norfolk Harbor and Channels (Lamberts Bend to Swells Point) Federal Navigation Project and the Craney Island Dredged Material Management Area (CIDMMA) Federal Project. We are soliciting written comments, including any objections to the proposed alteration, stating reasons therefor, from anyone having an interest in the requested alteration. Section 408 authorizes the Secretary of the Army to grant permission for the alteration or occupation or use of a USACE project if the Secretary determines that the activity will not be injurious to the public interest and will not impair the usefulness of the project. Comments specific to this Section 408 review should be submitted directly via email to the Section 408 Team Lead, Katy Damico, at firstname.lastname@example.org, copied to email@example.com, and the Regulatory contact noted in the Comment Period Section below.
VIRGINIA’S SECTION 401 WATER QUALITY CERTIFICATION PROGRAM: The Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 401 Certification Rule (Certification Rule, 40 CFR 121), effective September 11, 2020, requires certification, or waiver, for any license or permit that authorizes an activity that may result in a discharge. The scope of a CWA Section 401 certification is limited to ensuring that a discharge from a Federally licensed or permitted activity will comply with water quality requirements. To comply with the Virginia Section 401 Water Quality Certification Program and the Certification Rule, the applicant is responsible for adhering to the procedures outlined in the Certification Rule when requesting certification from the certifying authority, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. In accordance with Certification Rule part 121.12, the Corps will notify the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator when it has received a Department of the Army (DA) permit application and the related certification. The Administrator is responsible for determining whether the discharge may affect water quality in a neighboring jurisdiction. The DA permit may not be issued pending the conclusion of the Administrator’s determination of effects on neighboring jurisdictions.
COMMENT PERIOD: Comments on this project should be in writing and can be sent by either email to Traycie.L.West@usace.army.mil, or by regular mail, addressed to the Norfolk District, Corps of Engineers (ATTN: CENAO-WRR), 803 Front Street, Norfolk, VA 23510-1011, and should be received by the close of business on August 28, 2023.
PRIVACY AND CONFIDENTIALITY: Comments and information, including the identity of the submitter, submitted in response to this Public Notice may be disclosed, reproduced, and distributed at the discretion of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Information that is submitted in connection with this Public Notice cannot be maintained as confidential by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Submissions should not include any information that the submitter seeks to preserve as confidential.
If you have any questions about this project or the permit process, contact Ms. Traycie West, Traycie.L.West@usace.army.mil, 757-201-7652.
Cultural Resource Map
Species Conclusion Table
FWS Species List