Virginia Beach Wins National Grant to Plan for Sea-Level Rise

City will use $844,000 to protect homes, businesses, military bases

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

The City of Virginia Beach has won a highly coveted $844,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to help protect homes, businesses and military bases from rising seas.

The money from NOAA’s Regional Coastal Resilience Grant Program will help Virginia Beach continue a citywide analysis of sea level rise and how to adapt to it. The study began in 2014 and will be completed in 2018. Virginia Beach will share the results with neighboring cities and work with local businesses and homeowners to implement the recommendations.

The city will partner with Dewberry, the Georgetown Climate Center and Old Dominion University to determine best practices for adapting to flooding.

“We are thrilled to receive this grant,” Virginia Beach Mayor William D. Sessoms, Jr., said. “It will support our ongoing efforts to combat rising sea levels throughout Coastal Virginia. This project represents another smart and effective step toward ensuring Virginia Beach’s resilience for years to come.”

In recent years, Virginia Beach has taken several major steps to protect the city from sea level rise and coastal storms. At the Oceanfront, the city tripled the width of its beaches and built a new protective seawall and boardwalk. The city regularly replenishes its beach at the resort, Sandbridge and along the Chesapeake Bay. The city’s floodplain ordinance was amended to require that finished floors be at least two feet above the 100-year flood elevation. And the city has helped raise some at-risk homes through FEMA’s Flood Mitigation Program.

Hampton Roads is rated second only to New Orleans as the most vulnerable area to relative sea level rise in the country. It ranks among the top 10 worldwide in the value of assets exposed to potential flooding, and it is home to the largest concentration of military bases in the nation. A study by the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission estimated that the region could face direct economic costs of $12 billion to $87 billion due to rising seas by the end of the century.

This is the inaugural year of NOAA’s Regional Coastal Resilience Grant Program. The agency received more than 130 applications for the highly competitive grants, of which 12 were recommended for funding. The program supports regional approaches that build resilience of coastal regions, communities and economic sectors from extreme weather events, climate hazards and changing ocean conditions.

Mayor Sessoms said, “We are pleased to have such strong support for our efforts from many Virginia leaders, including Gov. Terry McAuliffe, U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, and U.S. Rep. Scott Rigell. I can’t thank them enough.”

Dr. Jeffery Payne, director of the NOAA Office for Coastal Management, said, “The challenges confronting our nation’s coastal communities are incredibly complicated. Effective solutions are going to require strong science, ingenuity and collaboration if they are going to safeguard and ensure the future vitality of our economy and valuable natural resources. The projects that have been approved for funding represent opportunities to do just that. We are excited about what these partnership projects will accomplish at the local level and the positive impact this program will have on our nation.”

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