Inside the dredging of the Ocean View beach replenishment project

This image shows the Liberty Island dredge, which is being used to finish a $34 million beach replenishment project in Ocean View. Credit: WAVY/Matt Gregory.

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The face lift for Norfolk’s Ocean View beach is near the finish line. The $34 million replenishment project has already restored most of the beach.

The goal is protect Norfolk’s shore lines from storms. 10 On Your Side got an up close look at the mammoth undertaking.

WAVY’s Matt Gregory sailed out to the middle of the Chesapeake Bay. Right by the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel, we found the Great Lakes Dredge and Dock’s dredge ship, “The Liberty Island,” waiting to start the work day.

At the helm, Captain James Hoffman steered the day’s work. In the morning, the Liberty Island combed the bay floor, with two gigantic pumps that look act like a vacuum cleaner. Sometimes, it catches things they don’t expect.

“This is some gear from a shrimp trawler or something like that,” Captain Hoffman said as he pointed to a metal net rigged with cables.

It doesn’t take long to fill up the dredge ship.

“You can see the dry sand in the hopper right here. A lot of times, it will load from the back of the hopper forward,” Hoffman said, pointing out the full load in the bottom of the ship.

Hoffman said it holds roughly 480 dump trucks loads of sand.

Then, the Liberty Island sailed over to hook up to the two mile long pipeline that stretches to the shore. The ship’s pump engines spring to life with a deafening roar and the sand slowly drops through the pipeline.

“It shoves it down into the pipe, goes through the pumps you saw and sends it ashore,” Hoffman said.

The end product is tons of sand dumped on the shoreline and spread out by bulldozers and front end loaders.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said last week that the project was more than halfway complete. Project Manager Robert Pretlow said at this point, 80 percent is complete. He says the new beach has held up well again recent storms.

“From what they are finding so far, there is no major impact to what was placed,” Pretlow said.

It’s close to three football stadiums worth of sand dumped — a massive project. In the era of erosion, scenes like this may repeat across not only Norfolk, but all Hampton Roads shorelines.

Pretlow expects the project to finish by mid-May.