Virginia State Officials Lay Out Plan to Address Rising Seas

October 26, 2020

Virginia state officials have laid out a plan to protect the state’s coastal communities from sea-level rise that could inundate land and roads and threaten property in the decades ahead.

Governor Ralph Northam joined other state and local officials on Thursday to unveil the framework, billed as Virginia’s first step toward reducing risks from rising waters, The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk reported.

“That’s not something we can afford to hide from,” Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew Strickler said at a kayak launch in Norfolk, where the unveiling occurred. “If we do, it’s just going to make it that much harder to make coastal Virginia, again, economically and socially and culturally viable in the long term.”

The five-point plan prioritizes ecologically-friendly infrastructure, which Strickler said can be as effective as high-tech flood gates or expanded seawalls for a fraction of the price. The framework also addresses existing socioeconomic inequities, as racial minorities and lower-income people disproportionately have had to live in areas more susceptible to flooding.

Starting in early 2021, the state will have a dedicated source of funding – about $50 million a year – to help localities prepare for sea level rise and flooding.

An advisory committee will now be formed to help develop a master plan that includes a list of high-priority projects and how to pay for them.

Should sea levels rise by five feet, about 250,000 acres of land, 1,500 miles of roads, and $17 billion worth of property would be at risk in Virginia, according to plan details.

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