NAO-2020-02439 (Marsh Restoration in Back Bay, Virginia Beach, Virginia)

Published Sept. 14, 2023
Expiration date: 10/14/2023

September 14, 2023


The District Commander has received a joint permit application for Federal and State permits as described below:

City of Virginia Beach
c/o Ms. Kristina Searles
2875 Sabre St, Suite 250
Virginia Beach, VA 23452

PROJECT LOCATION:  Bonney Cove in Back Bay, Virginia Beach, VA

PROJECT SIZE: The total size of the project area is 531.8 acres.

NEAREST WATERWAY: Bonney Cove in Back Bay

LATITUDE AND LONGITUDE: 36.660102, -75.942726


Project Purpose:  This project is intended to implement a marsh restoration effort that is part of the City of Virginia Beach’s Flood Protection Program.  The Bonney Cove site has experienced historical ecological degradation.  Historical shoreline data from 1869 indicates approximately 50% of present-day open water in Bonney Cove (260 acres) was previously marsh.  Loss of the marsh island habitat within Bonney Cove has resulted in the opening of a secondary channel allowing increased flow exchange between the upper and lower bays.  In comparison to shore-adjacent restoration, off-shore marsh restoration, leveraging hydraulic modeling, identified Bonney Cove as a location where marsh restoration has the potential to reduce the propagation of floodwaters through key pathways within Back Bay.  The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (VDWR) also identified Bonney Cove as a restoration priority as this area serves as an ideal location for Submerged Aquatic Vegetation (SAV) reestablishment and vital habitat for migratory birds and fish.

The project consists of three principal components: (1) the creation of marsh terraces, (2) creation of a landing/staging area, and (3) a sand pumping pipeline and various other attendant features/equipment that support the overall project:

  1. Marsh Terraces

The proposed project includes the creation of 41 individual marsh terraces spanning approximately 25,000 linear feet (46.6 acres).  It is anticipated the construction of the terraces will create approximately 13 acres of emergent marshlands, 14 acres of vegetated upland habitat, and will include 16 acres of submerged terrace habitat.  The applicant’s preferred configuration will be spaced at approximately 300-to-600-foot intervals and maintain 310 acres of unconsolidated subaqueous bottom within Bonney Cove suitable for SAV communities and fauna associated with unconsolidated bottom waters.

  1. Shipps Cabin Road Landing/Staging Area

Approximately 6.1 acres of Phragmites-dominated marsh is proposed to be converted into a landing that will support construction staging activities, including material stockpiles and the establishment of slurry basins and a slurry pipeline from the landing site to the marsh terrace locations.  The landing will consist of two filled areas (5.0 acres and 1.1 acres) consisting of a base layer of # 3 stone over a woven geotextile, with a thick layer of fill materials to be capped with #21B stone.  A structural pre-engineered permanent 60’ span will connect the two landing areas over the adjacent excavated channel.  Three 40’ x 20’ slurry basins and an associated booster pump will be located along the eastern edge of the northeast staging area.  The southeast portion of the staging area will extend approximately 40 feet from the existing marsh areas out into the adjacent subaqueous bottomlands.

  1. Sand Pumping Pipeline & Supporting Equipment

A slurry pipeline is proposed to be established between the landing site and the marsh terrace locations to efficiently transport materials through shallow areas where barging would be difficult.  The slurry pipeline will consist of approximately 10,424 linear feet of 12” diameter high-density polyethylene (HDPE) fused/welded pipeline that will be assembled on land and floated into its proposed alignment within Back Bay.  The pipe will marked by floats every 5 feet and temporary signage placed as reasonable.  It is anticipated the pipeline will be submerged to the bottom of the bay at channel crossings.  By establishing a floating pipeline, disturbances will be limited to the subaqueous bottomlands along the alignment and allow for the retraction of the pipeline during the winter inactive periods and inclement weather events.  Two booster stations will be located along the alignment, one approximately half-way between the landing and Bonney Cove, and one at the edge of Bonney Cove.  These booster stations will consist of a pontoon mounted diesel engine pump capable of moving the sand slurry from the laydown area to the site.  It is estimated that 450 Gallons Per Minute (GPM) of sand slurry would be pumped through the pipe.


Fill material associated with the creation of the marsh terraces is proposed to be sourced from the Sandbridge Road Nimmo Parkway Phase VII-A project located immediately north of Back Bay (VMRC 15-1564, USACE IP NAO-2015-00151) and supplemented with limited dredging areas adjacent to the proposed marsh terrace locations to avoid the use of foreign materials.

The proposed landing location was selected by the applicant to avoid impacts to forested wetlands and tree clearing.  In addition, it was chosen to shorten the necessary length of the slurry pipeline by approximately 1 mile, minimizing the potential temporary impacts from the slurry pipe to subaqueous bottom in Back Bay and disruptions to boaters.

COMPENSATORY MITIGATION: No compensatory mitigation is proposed by the applicant.

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.  The applicant received a waiver August 9, 2023.

The applicant must obtain a permit from the City of Virginia Wetlands Board if required by the City.

A copy of the joint permit application can be found on the Virginia Marine Resources Commission’s website ( under the application number 23-1786.


(x)       Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 (33 U.S.C. 403).

(x)       Sections 401 and 404 of the Clean Water Act (Public Law 95-217) and Title 62.1 of the Code of Virginia.

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 there may be an effect to listed/proposed/candidate species and/or designated/proposed critical habitat under the ESA of 1973.

The USFWS Information and Planning and Consultation (IPaC) Official Species List and Species Conclusion Table are attached for review and comment by the FWS. 

Our assessment of the project leads us to a preliminary determination that it is not likely to adversely effect Atlantic sturgeon.  The Corps will coordinate the project with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in accordance with the GARFO PRD-USACE NAD 2017 NLAA Program procedures.

Additional information might change any of these findings.


Historic Resources eligible for inclusion or included in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) are in or near the Corps permit area or would likely be affected by the proposal.  The project will be coordinated with both the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (VDHR) and Tribes who may have interest in the area.

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).

Booney Cove in Back Bay contains EFH for Bluefin Tuna, Albacore Tuna, Witch Flounder, Summer Flounder, Monkfish, Scup, Yellowfin Tuna, Windowpane Flounder, Bluefish, Atlantic Herring, Smoothhound Shark Complex (Atlantic Stock), Longfin Inshore Squid, Atlantic Cod, Clearnose Skate, and Black Sea Bass.  It is an anadromous fish use area.  The Virginia Marine Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) map does not show SAV within the action area within the least five years.  Our assessment of the project leads us to a preliminary determination that it 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 nature of the project, use of turbidity curtains around the active construction areas, and the size of the waterway.   

Additional information may change any of these findings.

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:

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:

The applicant has not submitted concurrence.

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, 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 October 14, 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. Brittany Kopitsky via email at or phone at 757-201-7893.

Impact Maps
USFWS Self-Certification Letter