The Lafayette River Restoration

the challenge

Stretching from Hampton Boulevard on the Elizabeth River into some of Norfolk’s oldest and most popular residential neighborhoods, the Lafayette branch of the Elizabeth was perhaps the closest to returning to health of any stretch of the Elizabeth – it just needed a good push.


Lawn Fertilizers, Motor Oil, Pet Waste, Antifreeze, Kitchen Grease, Boat Waste And Aging, Malfunctioning Sewer Lines.

The REsult

A Suffering River.

Our River:

the project

In 2011, The Elizabeth River Project and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation brought together over 100 people to create the Lafayette River Restoration Plan. They included homeowners and scientists, government agencies and businesses. Since putting the plan into action, more than 1,200 homeowners, 26 businesses and 22 schools  have  enrolled in the River Stars program. Government agencies have completed more than $200 million in water treatment and municipal sewer line repairs. The tributary now hosts eighty acres of healthy oyster habitat, including The Elizabeth River Project’s largest oyster reef yet, seeded with 3 million oysters from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Scoop the Poop stations now line riverside pathways, landowners are restoring shorelines and wetlands, boaters are practicing proper sewage handling, and innovative “tree box” systems installed by the City of Norfolk and The Virginia Department of Conservation are filtering polluted street runoff before it ever reaches the river. 

oyster Reefs
River Star Homes
VA river restored for oyster habitat

the result

By 2014, the community’s efforts had paid off. That year, the Lafayette River met state water quality standards for recreational contact. Four years later, it became the first Virginia river fully restored for the safe harvest of native oysters.