Published Nov. 8, 2016
Expiration date: 12/9/2016

The Norfolk District proposes the reissuance with minor revisions to better describe authorized activities of Regional Permit 20 (RP-20), scheduled to expire on May 24, 2017. 

RP-20 authorizes the creation of artificial reefs (oyster and fish haven) and dredging of old shellfish reefs, when the material, dredge shell or structural, will be used to create new or enhance existing natural or artificial reefs owned, operated or managed by the Commonwealth of Virginia by the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC). The intent of RP-20 is to provide a streamlined permitting process for those activities listed in this paragraph that do not adversely affect general navigation and have only minimal adverse impact to the aquatic environment.

 The impacts may not result in more than minimal individual or cumulative adverse environmental impacts. The Norfolk District proposes to modify and reissue the RP-20 for five years. The existing RP-20 can be found on our web site at: 


AUTHORITY: Permits are required pursuant to Section 10 of the River 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. 

The placement of this structure material within designated off shore fish havens is excluded from regulation by Section 103 of the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act of 1972 (MPRSA), as amended (33 U.S.C. 1401) at 40 CFR 220.1(c)(2), within the definition of dumping at 40 CFR 220.2(e) where the material is deposited for developing, maintaining, or harvesting fisheries resources.

FEDERAL EVALUATION OF APPLICATION: The decision whether to reissue this general permit will be based on an evaluation of the probable impact including cumulative impacts of the proposed permitted 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 classification, 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 Regional Permit. 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 pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act. 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 s 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.

Preliminary review indicates that: (1) no environmental impact statement will be required; (2) no activity will be authorized by this permit that will jeopardize the continued existence of a threatened or endangered species or a species proposed for such designation, as identified under the Federal Endangered Species Act, or will destroy or adversely modify the critical habitat of such species. Projects which have an effect on any species of fish, wildlife or plant (or critical habitat) which is designated or proposed as endangered or threatened pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (P. L. 93-305) will not qualify for this permit until the required procedures have been followed; and (3) known properties eligible for inclusion or included in the National Register of Historic Places located in or near the permit area, or that would likely be affected by the proposal will be properly coordinated with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources pursuant to the provisions of 36 CFR Part 800, regulations implementing Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (NHPA), as amended, 16 U.S.C. 470f, and 33 CFR Part 325, Appendix C, Processing of Department of the Army Permits. Additional information might change any of these findings. For compliance with the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972, as amended, the Corps must certify that federally licensed or permitted activities affecting Virginia's coastal zone will be conducted in a manner consistent with the Virginia Coastal Resources Management Program (VCP). The Norfolk District will apply for Coastal Zone Management Act consistency via a separate request. 

ESSENTIAL FISH HABITAT ASSESSMENT: 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 National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) on all actions, or proposed actions, permitted, funded, or undertaken by the agency that may adversely affect Essential Fish Habitat (EFH). Fossil oyster shell dredging in the James River, and planting of clean dredged fossil oyster shell in various river and bay locations, and placement of structural materials in various river, bay, and ocean fish havens may affect the EFH for the egg, larval, juvenile, and adult life stages of numerous species. Where the work involves hydraulic dredging of old shellfish reefs an automatic time of year restriction will apply for between February 15 and June 15 of any year unless consultation with the NOAA Fisheries confirms there will be no impact for protection of anadromous fish migration and spawning. 

The habitat which this project would affect consists of open water, without submerged aquatic vegetation. The proposed action is described in the proposed re-issuance statement, above. Our assessment of this action 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 observed minimal nature of the direct impacts, minimal and temporary increases in turbidity, and the absence of submerged aquatic vegetation and anadromous fish spawning habitat in the dredge and reef areas. Based on comments from the NOAA Fisheries Service in response to this public notice, further EFH consultation may be necessary. 

COMMENT PERIOD: Comments on this project should be in writing and can be sent by either email to john.d.evans@usace.army.mil , or by regular mail, addressed to the Norfolk District Corps of Engineers, Regulatory Branch (ATTN: CENAO-WRR Evans), 803 Front Street, Norfolk, Virginia 23510-1011, and should be received by the close of business on December 9, 2016. 

PRIVACY & 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, please send email to john.d.evans@usace.army.mil or call me at 757-201-7794.