WSSI conducted environmental studies and assisted NASA with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process for the installation of new fiber optic cable via a marine route at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility (WFF). The “Marsh Fiber” provides a reliable, secure, and fast means of transmitting data to support current and future information technology demands to support NASA and other WFF tenants. WSSI prepared the Environmental Assessment (EA), a supplement to the May 2019 site-wide Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS). NASA was the lead agency, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service participated as a cooperating agency because the proposed cable route passed through the Wallops Island National Wildlife Refuge.

The Challenge

NASA WFF needed to complete the NEPA and associated agency permitting and reguatory requirements within a tight schedule for the Marsh Fiber project. The alternatives were in early stages of development, wetlands and cultural resources investigations were required, and the COVID-19 pandemic occurred just prior to publication of the draft NEPA documents.

Our Solution

WSSI staff worked closely with NASA and the project engineers to develop the project purpose and need statements, build the screening criteria for evaluating potential alternatives, and draft the detailed description of the proposed action. We conducted wetland delineation over the proposed project corridor and within a buffer area in case the cable alignment changed, which proved to be efficient beuase the alignment shifted late in the project but our field work and permitting included the new project alignmment. Additionally, our principal in charge worked closely with the design engineers and NASA to develp a frac-out plan that would be approved by regulatory agencies (such as Virignia Marine Resources Commission and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers). WSSI’s work included:

  • Tidal wetland delineation of the saltmarsh and uplands in the project area
  • Joint Permit Application preparation and coordination with regulatory agencies for permit authorization
  • Identification of and coordination with local, state, federal, and private entities for EA scoping and distribution
  • Regulatory compliance and coordination:
    • National Historic Preservation Act Section 106 coordination with Virginia Department of Historic Resources, and oversight of the archaeological survey on USFWS Wallops Island National Refuge property
    • Endangered Species Act: National Marine Fisheries Service Protected Species Division and USFWS, Virginia Field Office
    • Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation Management Act Essential Fish Habitat: National Marine Fisheries Service, Greater Atlantic Fisheries, Office Essential Fish Habitat
  • Public notices and public meeting materials and support
  • EA document development and processing, including:
    • Responses to public comments
    • Preparation of the draft EA, the Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI), and the final EA
    • Administrative record
Project Facts
  • Owner
    National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Wallops Flight Facility
  • Location
    Wallops Island, VA
  • Size
    13,600 linear feet (2.57 linear miles)
  • Suzie Richert, AICP, CEP

    Blacksburg, VA

  • Robert Wright, PWD, PWS, CNRP

    Richmond, VA