Port, Army Corps formalize dredging cost-share agreement
Norfolk Harbor project set to finish in 2024
The Port of Virginia and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers signed an agreement Friday that formalized their collaboration on the Norfolk Harbor dredging project to deliver the East Coast’s widest and deepest channels by 2024. The Army Corps also will use federal funding to award its first construction contract for the project, which started in 2019.
Virginia Port Authority CEO Stephen A. Edwards and Col. Brian P. Hallberg, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Norfolk District commander, signed the agreement in Norfolk in a ceremony attended by U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, U.S. Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda D. Young, and several other state and federal elected officials representing Virginia.
“The importance of this moment in the evolution of the Port of Virginia cannot be overstated,” Edwards said in a statement. “This is a modern, 21st-century port and when you couple our land-based assets and capabilities with the deepest and widest channels — and safest harbor — on the entire U.S. East Coast, you have a recipe for success here for decades to come.”
The project will deepen the commercial shipping channels from the Atlantic Ocean into the harbor to at least 55 feet and widen them enough to accommodate two-way traffic of ultra-large container ships, creating the deepest and widest port on the East Coast. In some areas, the channels will be widened to more than 1,400 feet across.
The 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, or the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, included the final installment of the federal investment, $72 million. The federal government and the port agreed to a 50-50 cost share in 2015, when the Army Corps began evaluating the economic value of a deeper and wider harbor and commercial shipping channel, and the agreement marks the beginning of the cost share.
Dredge work on the project began in December 2019, and the project is scheduled for completion in 2024. The dredging is just part of the port’s upgrades, which include increasing capacity at Norfolk International Terminals and Virginia International Gateway, and building a burgeoning offshore wind hub. Edwards highlighted all of these goals, as well as improved efficiency at the port during the pandemic, in his first State of the Port Address in April.
“The project is making progress, and we are on budget and on schedule for delivery by late 2024,” said Joe Harris, spokesman for the port.
A byproduct of the dig, known as dredge material, will go to regional beaches.
“Over the course of the project, we’ll dredge a large volume of sands — millions of cubic yards,” Keith Lockwood, Army Corps of Engineers’ Norfolk District Water Resources Division chief, said in a statement. “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Virginia Port Authority are collaborating with the cities of Norfolk and Virginia Beach to maximize the beneficial use of this dredged sand by placing it along beaches for additional coastal protection.”
Reps. Elaine Luria and Bobby Scott, Virginia Sen. Louise Lucas, Del. Robert Bloxom Jr., Virginia Transportation Secretary W. Sheppard “Shep” Miller III and Jamie A. Pinkham, assistant secretary of the Army for civil works, attended the signing.