The Navy announced on September 8 its decision to deepen approximately five miles of the Norfolk Harbor Channel in the Elizabeth River. This action will allow the continuous safe and expeditious travel of aircraft carriers to and from the Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY) and the Lamberts Point Deperming Station.
Dredging this heavily-used waterway, which is the federal navigation channel within the Elizabeth River in Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Chesapeake, would occur from the Lamberts Point Deperming Station in the Lamberts Bend Reach, south to NNSY in the Lower Reach. Dredging would occur completely within the existing Army Corps of Engineers-maintained federal navigation channel.
The action is necessary because currently there is not enough space between the keel of transiting aircraft carriers and the bottom of the channel. This causes mud and other debris from the river bottom to be drawn into the engine cooling and firefighting systems, creating the potential for engine damage, costly delays, and unsafe conditions.
To avoid these conditions, aircraft carrier movements into and out of the deperming station and NNSY are now limited to high tide periods. These conditions must be alleviated in order for the Navy to meet the requirement of maintaining the combat readiness of its nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, and effectively and efficiently perform its national defense mission.
The Navy's decision conforms to the process outlined in the National Environmental Protection Act, which requires analysis of the environmental consequences of federal actions. The Navy consulted with state and federal regulatory agencies throughout the environmental impact statement (EIS) process, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, and the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was a cooperating agency in this EIS.