Restoring the Lafayette: Norfolk’s largest watershed to get $4.6 million in upgrades

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(Photo by Kenny Fletcher/Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF). Jackie Shannon, CBF Virginia Oyster Restoration Manager plants oysters in the Lafayette River on Aug. 17, 2016.)

Jackie Shannon, CBF Virginia Oyster Restoration Manager plants oysters in the Lafayette River on August 17, 2016. (Photo by Kenny Fletcher/Chesapeake Bay Foundation)

 

 

For almost six years, the city of Norfolk has deployed various projects to rehabilitate the Lafayette River watershed, which runs almost 14 square miles making it the largest in the city.

Continuing their efforts into the new year, a series of projects will soon restore sections of the river’s shorelines.

The Lafayette River watershed. (Courtesy of the city of Norfolk)

The Lafayette River watershed. (Courtesy of the city of Norfolk)

Using coastal resilience grants from the Department of Interior and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation totaling in $4.6 million, the city has selected five different locations – Knitting Mill Creek, Barraud Park and the Lindenwood neighborhood, Riverview, around the Lafayette Boulevard Bridge and along North Shore Road near the river’s mouth – that will see the placement of rock sills, logs, added marsh vegetation and oyster reefs.

The projects, according to environmental engineer Justin Shafer, will restore about 8 acres of wetlands and roughly 1.6 miles of the river’s coasts. About 1.5 acres of oyster reefs will be placed in the river as well.

“Norfolk has been somewhat of a regional leader in shoreline restoration,” Shafer said. “We saw the grant as an opportunity to look at where our shorelines could be better stabilized.”

Shafer said that because the city was focusing on repairing living shorelines instead of fixed structures like bulkheads, they decided to apply the grants to further restoring the Lafayette River. When completed, the projects will help to reduce shoreline erosion, provide new habitat spaces, improve overall water quality and cut back on pollution.

“The Lafayette has seen significant improvement in recent years,” Shafer said. “There had been a big push for green efforts of all sorts environmentally-friendly improvements.”

An overview of the Barruad Park site location. (Courtesy of the city of Norfolk)

An overview of the Barruad Park site location. (Courtesy of the city of Norfolk)

The first project will focus on a section of the Knitting Mill Creek in the Colonial Place neighborhood, starting between New York and New Jersey Avenues and running south through Delaware Avenue, will add .35 acres of habitat space and wetland restoration. Shafer said that construction on the creek could begin as early as March.

In Barraud Park and the Lindenwood neighborhood, the city will develop 1.68 acres of marsh and roughly 2,500 feet of shoreline to protect the coast from further erosion, specifically near Lindenwood Elementary School located on Ludlow Street.

“The bus loop is about three feet from the edge of a 5-foot drop off that goes down to the water,” Shafer said. “It’s been eroded quite a bit and after a few more hurricanes, we could actually see erosion reach the road there.”

In the three remaining locations – Riverview, around the Lafayette Boulevard Bridge and along North Shore Road – the project will address shoreline erosion, develop habitable marshlands and add new vegetation. These sites will also see the placement of oysters. Oyster reefs will be constructed along North Shore Road.

An overview of the Barruad Park site location. (Courtesy of the city of Norfolk)

An overview of the Beach Avenue site location in the Riverview neighborhood. (Courtesy of the city of Norfolk)

“The reef gives us a larger surface area than an oyster castle and a more natural river bottom feature,” Shaffer said.

Construction in these areas will restore 6 acres of wetlands, about 1.2 miles of shoreline and 1.45 acres of oyster beds and reefs.

One of the goals of the projects is to reduce flooding related to wave action in the river, which is a contributor to the shoreline and wetland erosion that these areas experience. By pushing the shoreline out and adding rock sills and vegetation, the wave break line will move further away from the shoreline.

“They will be placing a triangle of rocks at the low water mark which will slow down wave energy before it hits the marsh and before it hits the street,” said Rachael Peabody, habitat engineer with Virginia Marine Resources Commission.

The rock sills will be placed at a lower level than normal, Shafer said, which will also allow for easier fish migration and colonization.

Poulter can be reached at amy@localvoicemedia.com

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