ISSUE: What is Dredging, and Why Does the City Do It?

FACT:  Dredging is one component of a larger plan designed to maintain the City’s waterways for navigation and to mitigate flooding.
dredging rudee inletIn fact, the six-year Capital Improvement Program (CIP) is projected to spend $130.9 million on flood control to improve or construct new infrastructure, and another $97.5 million on operations and maintenance to maintain and repair existing infrastructure.

Dredging involves the removal of built-up material, usually sand or silt, in a waterway or body of water. In Virginia Beach, that’s usually a canal that feeds into a neighborhood, the main channels of the Lynnhaven River, the lakes or the Rudee Inlet. When an areas is dredged for flood mitigation purposes, it increases the capacity of a waterway or lake, allowing it to transport or store additional water. For the purpose of navigation, it’s done to restore the channel to a depth that allows the safe passage of boats. 

Dredging the canals, such as two projects in Windsor Oaks West, has restored the drainage capacity. In some areas of that project, the depth of the canal was less than one foot. After dredging, the depth increased to four feet and improved the canal’s ability to carry stormwater out of the neighborhood. In those two projects, a total of 11,271 cubic yards of material was removed from the canal – that’s enough to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool three and a half times.

Dredging is also done to keep navigable waterways safe for vessels to travel through them. The City, along with the Army Corps of Engineers, maintains the main channels of the Lynnhaven River and Rudee Inlet so they are passable for boats. For the Rudee Inlet, that means maintaining a minimum depth of 10 feet.

The City doesn’t dredge a waterway unless there is a public interest to do so, such as flood control or to restore navigation. It just isn’t financially feasible to dredge every single waterway that branches into a neighborhood. However, the City operates what’s called the Special Service District Program (SSD) that provides a way for communities to dredge an existing neighborhood waterway. 

To participate in the program, which includes imposing special taxes dedicated to funding the dredging operation the City will manage, at least 80% of the residents in the service district must agree to participate.  The SSD program does not establish a new channel or widen an existing one; rather, it removes the built-up sand and silt to deepen the existing waterway.

Please click here for more information about neighborhood dredging operations or here​ for information about Rudee Inlet operations. Additional information can be found in the sidebar, including a recent update about the SSD and stormwater programs.

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