At The Port of Virginia, we believe that habitat restoration and creation is integral to our efforts to improve air and water quality within our region.
Our restoration and creation strategy is based on a “landscape approach,” where we strive to accomplish mini-ecosystem restorations through planning and construction/restoration of multiple habitat types within targeted portions of the Elizabeth River, James River, and Norfolk Harbor. Tidal and non-tidal wetlands, oyster reefs, open-spaces, forested buffers, and benthic restoration are constructed as connecting elements where possible, or efforts are made to ensure sites are constructed in close proximity to new or existing habitat types. “Landscape” planning for habitat construction creates a synergistic relationship between the different elements, ultimately ensuring the long-term growth and resilience of each habitat within the watershed.
Portsmouth Marine Terminal Oyster Reef:
One and one-half acres of oyster reef was re-constructed in the main stem Elizabeth River on old concrete pier-heads adjacent to Portsmouth Marine Terminal. The reef is one of the more populated man-made reefs in the Chesapeake Bay region and located within sight of Plum Point Park. The reef restores much needed oyster “rock” habitat within the mainstream of the Elizabeth River, which historically has been lost to siltation and dredging.
Plum Point Park:
Located directly across the Elizabeth River from the PMT Oyster Reef is Plum Point Park. The Port of Virginia collaborated with the City of Norfolk to create five acres of waterfront public access and passive recreational open space in an urban environment for all citizens within the region to enjoy. The Park educates its visitors on the historic battles that occurred off its shores during the War of 1812, the creation of the park, and the importance of open space, wetlands, and forested buffers in filtering pollutants in urban storm water runoff. Over 500 tons of steel and wood debris were removed from the waters adjacent to the park to allow shallow water access the park and its wetlands.
Paradise Creek Park:
Developed over three years by 12 State and Federal Agencies and 3 local interest groups, the Craney Compensation plan utilizes a “landscape approach” recommended by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS). This approach encourages biodiversity and connectivity of three major aquatic habitats: oyster reefs, wetlands, and benthic sediments. At a cost of $63 million, the plan targets a 411-acre section of the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River prioritized by the Commonwealth’s Watershed Action Plan for the Elizabeth River. The first of eight phases was completed in June 2013 with the public opening of Paradise Creek Park and 40-acre nature and tidal wetland park located in the Craddock neighborhood in the City of Portsmouth. The Park provides educational, recreational, and public access opportunities to the residents of Portsmouth and the larger Hampton Roads Community.
Phase 2 of the of the Compensation Plan, the construction of 16.5 acres of oyster reef throughout the Elizabeth River System will be completed in the Fall of 2014. Five reefs ranging from 0.2 acres to six acres will be located through the Southern and Western Branches of the Elizabeth River, the Lafayette River, and Hoffler Creek (0.2 acres). All will be sanctuary reefs and each contributing to the genetic rehabilitation of the historic oyster population within the Elizabeth and Lafayette River systems.