Comprehensive Sea Level Rise

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​Comprehensive Sea Level Rise and Recurrent Flooding Response Plan​ 

It is well documented that sea levels have been rising over the last century.  This impacts coastal com​​munities as virtually all human infrastructure will experience some risk.  The story of Sea Level Rise and how it effects the City of Virginia ​Beach is detailed below:


​​The story of Sea Level Rise in Virginia Beach

The threat of sea level rise is a very real one, and it’s one that coastal regions like Hampton Roads must face and prepare for.  

      • ​​​​The trend of relative sea level increase is expected to continue and is projected to accelerate through the end of the century. The Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences (VIMS) reviewed SLR projections sourced from U.S. Federal entities to establish planning values for Hampton Roads as an aspect of their Recurrent Flooding Study for the Virginia General Assembly. 
      • The VIMS report recommended a planning scenario of 1.5 feet for the region over the next 20 to 50 years, but notes that 3 feet is possible in the 50-year horizon.  These recommended values are being used in the City’s analysis.  ​
      • The rate of relative sea level rise (SLR) in the Hampton Roads region, is within the top 10 percent of the nation. Long-term records of water levels in southeast Virginia gauges have relative sea level rise trends that are almost twice that of the global average. This is primarily due to the relatively high rate of subsidence in Hampton Roads. 

How does sea level rise affect Virginia Beach?  

      • ​​​ Virginia Beach is a relatively young city, with the majority of development occurring between the 1960s and 1990s. This growth was driven by many families and businesses choosing to call it home and the expanded operations of our military installations. 
      • Sea level has increased by almost 1 foot since the 1960s.​ 
      • ​​Many areas that were formerly farmland ​have been developed with residential and commercial buildings. During rainfall events, much less water is absorbed into the ground because of development.
      • Increased sea level makes it harder for rainfall runoff to drain into the City’s waterways. Water that once entered waterways has to go somewhere – this excess water causes increased flooding. 
      • Flood waters can impact any home at any time – not just waterfront property or affluent communities. ​​​​​​
Regardless of opinions about climate change, the reality is that flooding is increasing and the City must prepare for the future.​

What is the City of Virginia Beach doing?  
      • ​​Beginning in the 2015 budget, City Council provided $3 million in funding for this critical initiative to specifically identify the potential impacts of SLR and develop a comprehensive long-term response plan.  
      • Also, the City received an $844,000 grant - the Regional Coastal Resiliency Grant - awarded by NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management, to further the City’s efforts, bringing the total to $3.8 million. 
      • ​The City has hired Dewberry, a national consulting firm with significant experience in developing strategies for coastal resiliency, to help with planning for reducing our risk.  
      • The study has assessed existing and future flood vulnerability across the City’s four unique watersheds, (Atlantic Ocean, Elizabeth River, Lynnhaven River, and Southern Rivers). The results are being used to identify focus areas for flood risk management. 
      • We are identifying short- and long-term measures that will reduce flooding risks for each watershed.  These will include combinations of policy measures, flood control structures, and structural engineering and nature-based solutions. 
      • The City is updating its stormwater master plan concurrently, creating an opportunity to determine how the increased coastal flood elevations will be reflected through the stormwater system and which causes additional interior flooding.  
      • While the rising waters are a slow-moving problem, they cannot be ignored, so the City is preparing now to address them – 20, 30 and even 50 years out.  
      • The research and flood mitigation strategies developed by Dewberry will be vital to avoid increased flood issues in the future.​ 

​​​​​What can I do as a resident?  ​ ​​​​​
As Dewberry conducts research and looks at the science of flooding in our city, here is what you can do now as a concerned citizen.​ 
      • ​​​Protect your property with the appropriate insurance. 
      • Build responsibly.  
      • Know the degree of your flood hazard. 
      • Do your homework before you purchase real estate. ​
      • Share your ideas and concerns with the City. 
      • Help educate your neighbors, co-workers, friends and family about flood protection strategies.​