Sand replenishment project at Virginia Beach Oceanfront reaches North End
VIRGINIA BEACH -- For the past week, a robotic-looking all-terrain vehicle has been towering over the beach at 38th Street where the sand meets the ocean. But don't worry, Imperial ground forces have not invaded the city.
The three-wheeled triangular contraption that looks like it's straight out of a "Star Wars" movie is a Coastal Research Amphibious Buggy, also known as a C.R.A.B. It's been surveying the beach's slope and shape for a replenishment project that began in June.
Sand dredged from a navigational channel in the Chesapeake Bay is being pumped from an offshore vessel through a submerged pipe. A slurry of sand and water gushes out and bulldozers spread the mix around.
The goal is to beef up the width of the beach to about 300 feet and raise it 9 feet above sea level to protect Oceanfront infrastructure, including hotels and homes.
"It's almost like pushing the ocean back," said Kristin Mazur, project manager for the Norfolk District Army Corps of Engineers.
On Thursday, the dredging company was in the process of moving the pipeline for the next leg of the operation at the North End.
Tommy Cooksey and his wife, Robin, of Fredericksburg, visit the resort area twice a year. They rented a hotel room on Atlantic Avenue at 38th Street this week not realizing the sand replenishment project was under way. They decided to drive to the beach near Rudee Inlet and pay for parking.
"If that wasn't going on, we would have just walked across the street," said Robin Cooksey.
Pat Reynolds of Colonial Heights is staying at the Sheraton Hotel on 38th Street. She was able to set her chairs in front of the fenced-off equipment, but when the tide came in, her beach bag got soaked. Still, she wasn't too upset.
"I know it has to be done," she said.
The last renourishment was completed in 2013.
Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co. has accomplished about 50 percent of the $22.6 million job and will have to cease operations by the end of the month.
That's because dredging is restricted during the sea turtle migration season, which runs from Sept. 1 to Nov. 15.
"The Chesapeake Bay provides a rich environment for both foraging and development for sea turtles," said Shannon Reinheimer, an environmental scientist for the corps.
The company expects to reach 55th Street and may come back in November to complete the North End, Mazur said.
Beach replenishment in Sandbridge will also begin after the turtle restriction ends.
Originally, Sandbridge was supposed to get sand in the spring before the Oceanfront, Mazur said. The government shutdown at the end of last year affected the timeline, she said.
The corps and the city, which are partners in the project, decided to move forward with the Oceanfront renourishment to complete it before hurricane season, Mazur said.
“We truly wanted to get it done before May, so we could be out of the tourists' way, but it just didn’t happen,” she said.
Scheduling a hopper dredge, which is needed for this type of work, is a challenge. There are only five companies that have them, and more than 100 projects in the works over the next three years.
"We had to move forward," she said.
The project didn't get off the ground until late June. The mass shooting at the city's permit office delayed the process, and the contractor waited until after the North American Sand Soccer Championship, where 200,000 participants played games on the resort beach.
The project began at 15th Street. Every two days, about 800 feet of sand, or two blocks, is replenished. Sections of the beach are closed off while the equipment is in place, forcing beachgoers to walk north or south to access the shoreline.
Some vacationers tried to plan their stay around the work schedule, which is posted on the corps' website.
As for the beach south of 15th Street, sand dredged from Rudee Inlet this fall will be spread from the First Street Jetty to the Virginia Beach Fishing Pier.
"By the end of the year, the whole beach will be restored," said Dan Adams, the city's coastal program manager.
Another sand project is wrapping up on the Chesapeake Bay at Cape Henry beach just west of First Landing State Park.
The corps began dredging the Lynnhaven Inlet at the entrance of the Lesner Bridge and the turning basin in late May. That dredged material has been spread across about 2 miles of beach from the bridge to the former Virginia Beach Resort Hotel & Conference Center.
The project is almost complete, said Chris Tolson, a corps project manager.
Over the next 30 days, an emergency stockpile of sand will be placed on city property near Long Creek. Sand to be dredged from The Narrows — a stretch of water between Linkhorn and Broad bays — will be deposited on the Narrows beach, which is state park property.
Stacy Parker, 757-222-5125, email@example.com