NAO-2024-00126 (Ragged Island Restoration, Isle of Wight County, Virginia)

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Norfolk District
Published Feb. 28, 2024
Expiration date: 3/29/2024

February 28, 2024        

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

Mr. David Norris
Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources
7870 Villa Park Drive
P.O. Box 90778
Henrico, VA  23228-0778

The project is located on the southern James River shoreline at the Ragged Island Wildlife Management Area in Isle of Wight County, Virginia.  The western project limit starts from approximately where the shoreline meets the east side of the James River Bridge and the project extends approximately 1.2 miles eastward along the shoreline to the mouth of a small tidal tributary to the James River just east of East Island.

PROJECT SIZE:  Approximately 7.4 acres along 1.2 miles of the James River shoreline.


LATITUDE AND LONGITUDE:  Western terminus (LAT  36.967238°, LONG  -76.511601°), Eastern terminus (LAT  36.961861°, LONG  -76.492815°)

To create a living shoreline by the installation of 3,425 linear feet of rip rap breakwaters to protect 6,300 linear feet of existing tidal marsh. The improvements include 62 rip rap breakwaters totaling 13,752 cubic yards of rock creating 1.97 acres of rock substrate to protect the shore and encourage oyster growth in an area that is protected from harvest and will provide an oyster larval source on the James River. The breakwaters would be backfilled with 25,500 cubic yards of imported sand material that would be planted to restore 5.26 acres of tidal marsh lost to erosion.

The applicant’s stated primary purpose is to improve coastal habitats to benefit wildlife, fish, and communities in the James River and Chesapeake Bay through shoreline stabilization, restoration, and creation of additional wetland habitats, as well as protecting the fast-eroding 1,537 acres of existing marsh habitats at the Ragged Island Wildlife Management Area.  The secondary purpose is to replenish the beach to its natural grade and create a “buffer” of wetland vegetation between the Ragged Island marshes and the James River.

As proposed the overall project would result in direct impacts to 0.14 acres of tidal wetlands, 0.85 acres of unvegetated intertidal waters, and 6.4 acres of subaqueous land.  The riprap breakwaters would result in 1.97 acres of the impacts to subaqueous land, and the remainder of aquatic resource impacts are associated with the proposed tidal marsh restoration.

One alternative the applicant considered was to harden the shoreline with bulkheading and/or riprap, however, this defensive means of shore protection can often result in bottom scour as well as a reduction of intertidal, beach, backshore, and dune habitats. The construction of headland breakwaters with beach fill and wetland planting provides a coastal profile that enhances the beach/backshore/dune habitat while creating access for recreation.

Another alternative considered by the applicant was the use of engineered wave attenuation structures known as "Atlantic Reef Makers".  This alternative consists of pre-cast concrete trays with natural rock material cast into each block.  These trays are set on fiberglass piles and allow for the passage of water while attenuating wave energy.  Although this design could minimize direct fill impacts, it is cost prohibitive and has not been widely used as a means of shoreline protection.  This alternative also does not provide as much substrate for oyster growth.  The tombolo design was selected because of its wide use in the Chesapeake Bay area, it provides suitable habitat to encourage oyster growth, and it enhances the surrounding environment. This method of shoreline protection was chosen because of the anticipated accretion of sediment behind the breakwaters and an increase in wetlands.

Applicant proposes to minimize impacts to the aquatic environment by using a turbidity curtain to enclose the project area during construction and placement of material via barge where possible.

The applicant proposes that the project be considered self-mitigating because the project shoreline has been eroding at a rate of 3.5 feet per year from 1937-2010, and approximately 3 feet per year from 2002-2022.  The project proposes to stabilize 1.2 miles of shoreline, protect over 1,500 acres of natural marsh, restore 5.26 acres of marsh in the backfill area between breakwaters and marsh edge, and add oyster reefs to each breakwater, resulting in 1.97 acres of restored oyster and fish habitat.

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 must obtain a permit from the Isle of Wight County Wetlands Board.

A copy of the joint permit application can be found on the Virginia Marine Resources Commission’s website (

(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.
(  )      Section 103 of the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act of 1972 (33 U.S.C. 1413).
(  )      Section 14 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 (33 U.S.C. 408 (Section 408)).

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.

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 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).

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.

Additional information may change any of these findings.

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 James River contains EFH for the adult and juvenile life stages of Atlantic Herring, Black Sea Bass, Bluefish, and Clearnose Skate; EFH for eggs, larvae, juveniles, and adult life stages of the Red Hake; adult life stage of the Sand Tiger Shark; juvenile and neonate life sages of the Sandbar Shark; adult, juvenile, and larvae life stages of the Summer Flounder; and juvenile life stages of the Windowpane Flounder.  Other EFH species reported from the James River include the Atlantic Butterfish and Sandbar Shark.  The habitat which this project would affect consists of 0.14 acres of tidal wetlands, 0.85 acres of unvegetated intertidal waters, and 6.4 acres of subaqueous landThe proposed project is described in Proposed Work and Purpose, above.  No submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) beds are known from the immediate project area.  This part of the James River has documented anadromous fish use and private oyster leases.  The applicant proposes to install a turbidity curtain around the entire project area during construction.  The proposed breakwaters would provide a hard substrate for barnacles and oysters to settle and grow, increasing foraging areas for finfish.  The applicant plans to obtain clean sand from an upland source for the proposed beach nourishment.  The sand would be stockpiled in the adjacent upland parking area and transported to the site from a single access point, utilizing the fill for access as the renourishment materials are placed.  Stone material for the breakwaters would be placed from barges to limit disturbance to the subaqueous bottom.  Based on comments from the NMFS in response to this public notice, further EFH consultation may be necessary.

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.

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.

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 29 March 2024.

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

Mr. David Knepper,, and (757) 201-7488).