- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 5, 2004

NORFOLK (AP) — Nearly one year after Hurricane Isabel reshaped portions of Chesapeake Bay’s shoreline, trucks laden with sand are restoring dunes and beaches.

Using sand dug from a pit in Chesapeake, crews will spend the next two months shoring up three areas in the Willoughby section of Ocean View, a bay-front area where homes and condos especially are exposed to flooding and winds this hurricane season.

Norfolk officials are closely watching Frances to see whether the storm might delay or prevent reconstruction of beaches that were virtually destroyed almost a year ago by Isabel.

Slight winds yesterday were like sighs of relief for the Chesapeake Bay beaches because Frances eased down and appeared to go on a westbound path across Florida, instead of detouring north on the Atlantic coast toward the Chesapeake.

In December, the city will embark on a larger beach-replenishment effort.

This one will pump clean sand dredged from the bottom of Chesapeake Bay at Thimble Shoals and pile it onto about 3 miles of weathered beachfront, from central Ocean View to the tip of Willoughby. The two initiatives will cost taxpayers about $4.6 million, officials said.

Isabel slammed Virginia in mid-September 2003, causing an estimated $1.6 billion in damage and leaving 33 persons dead across the state.

In previous years, the city received partial funding from a state board of public beaches. But the money is no longer available because of budget cuts. The Bush administration has said that it will not send federal aid to help finance beach restorations.

“It’s a heavy burden, no doubt,” said Lee Rosenberg, Norfolk’s director of environmental services.

The city had hoped to finish the Ocean View work this summer, before hurricane season arrived. But it ran into delays because of endangered-species laws protecting sea turtles. Each summer, hundreds of sea turtles swim and forage in sections of the Bay where the city wanted to mine sand.

Mechanical dredges that suck up sand for beach projects sometimes kill turtles, in violation of the federal Endangered Species Act.

The Army Corps of Engineers last month offered a compromise plan, which included the truck-spreading option that Norfolk now is using. The corps insisted, however, that the city stay clear of the Bay until sea turtles had migrated south for the winter.

Although the new sand looks darker than the old, it will lighten as it dries and bleaches in the sun, Mr. Rosenberg said.

“Hopefully, we won’t get any big storms,” he said.

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