Norfolk – The two southern-most dikes needed for the development of Craney Island Marine Terminal are now above water-level as the massive structures began poking through the Elizabeth River's low-tide line in early February.
In 2010 dredge contractors began pumping tens-of-thousands of cubic yards of sand taken from the Atlantic Channel maintenance dredging project and "repurposing" the material in construction of the dikes. The repurposed material is being spread in two orderly rows – perpendicular to the Craney Island shoreline -- by a "spill barge," a vessel specially designed for controlling the placement of the sand.
"This is an important milestone as we can now truly see the progress; it was hard to get an image of what we were talking about when everything was still underwater," said Rodney W. Oliver, interim executive director of the Virginia Port Authority (VPA). "As this project has now become something tangible, so too has the reality of The Port of Virginia becoming the East Coast's cargo gateway. When Craney Island is finished, this port will have more capacity than any of its peers on this coast."
When completed in mid-to-late March, the dikes will be 2000 feet long, 500 feet wide and 10 feet tall. When the dikes are complete, the next phase of work will be to connect those dikes at their ends with a long dike that runs parallel to the shoreline. From above, the project will look like a large rectangle ("cell") with the shoreline as one of its long sides. A second cell will be developed and filled at a later date.
Once the dike construction is complete, the focus of work will shift to filling the rectangle with more repurposed dredge material that will be taken from regional dredging projects; it is anticipated that filling the cells will take between six and eight years. When the dike-and-fill phase is done, the work will result in the creation of a 600-acre foundation for Craney Island Marine Terminal.
"The first phase of this project is to build the land on which the marine terminal will sit," Oliver said. "It is, by far, the most complicated and costly part of the project. Once that 600-acre plot is in place, it will be there for us to develop as we need, as demand dictates. Comparatively, building a marine terminal will not be nearly as complicated."
The first marine terminal at Craney Island could open within 12-to-15 years, depending on need.
Above: The base of one of the Craney Island dikes begins to emerge; the south berth at Norfolk International Terminals is in the background.