As Risk Gets Priced into Shoreline Property, Prices Fall

A story in the Daily Press looks at real estate assessments in Hampton, VA and finds declining value for waterfront property. What we have been hearing anecdotally is starting to take shape. We hear complaints about properties in known flooding areas languishing on the market, about pressure to drop home prices in flood zones to get them to move, about people taking all sorts of steps to lower flood insurance costs.

As assessments come out in other localities in Southeast Virginia, it will be interesting to see if there is a larger trend coming.

Adaptation and Water Quality Designs in Norfolk Neighborhood

The "Team" had its first meeting in Ingleside on Jan. 28. = the "Team" is the citizens of Ingleside, Wetlands Watch, Elizabeth River Project, Green Building Council of Hampton Roads, Virginia Sea Grant, the City of Norfolk and (most importantly) a group of energetic students from the University of Virginia. The students are involved in the University's Resiliency effort and are led by Dr. Phoebe Crisman. Also down from UVA were Dr. Ellen Bassett and Dr. Mark White.

We spent the afternoon in the Ingleside Church hearing from residents about their experiences with flooding and stormwater pollution and their desires for the neighborhood. Student teams recorded detailed observations about the community - including marking up maps on the wall. The students and professors will go back to Charlottesville and set to work and return in March to brief the rest of the Team about their initial designs.

This work follows on the earlier adaptation design work done in Chesterfield Heights by Hampton University and Old Dominion University students assisted by Wetlands Watch, Elizabeth River Project, and the Green Building Council of Hampton Roads - and funded by Virginia Sea Grant. That work resulted in a major grant to the city of Norfolk to implement those designs.

Student Adaptation Designs Bring Big Rewards

Wetlands Watch has been working on sea level rise adaptation for over a decade. We worried that no one had developed nature-based designs at a community scale that could be installed before a storm hits. With collaboration and funding from Virginia Sea Grant, in 2014 we asked the Hampton University Architecture Department and the Old Dominion University Civil/Environmental Engineering Department if they wanted to work on these designs - they said YES!. We also asked the Hampton Roads Green Building Council to provide professional mentoring and assistance.

We selected the community of Chesterfield Heights in Norfolk, VA, a community of 500+ houses along the Eastern Branch of the Elizabeth River, just starting to experience flooding. The students interviewed residents and conducted community tours and listening sessions. They dug for old records (Chesterfield Heights is an Historic District, having been built out around 1900 - 1920) and information on infrastructure, soils, etc.

They worked together - engineers and architects - to solve the flooding problems with the parameters we gave them: designs had to maintain or expand ecosystem services. They developed an intricate, distributed system of solutions that in model runs showed a 90% reduction in flooding and major reductions in stormwater pollution. A report on their work can be downloaded HERE.

This work was presented to Norfolk city staff, who recommended its inclusion in a 4-day international design effort, "Life at Sea Level: Dutch Dialogues Virginia." These designs were then packaged as a proposal to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development's "National Disaster Resilience Competition." a post - Hurricane Sandy design effort, coordinated by the Rockefeller Foundation.

In January 2016 the winners were announced and the student-based designs for Chesterfield Heights were awarded a $120 million grant for implementation. An amazing arc of success for these students, their universities, and the regional effort at resilience. We will be continuing this work with a generous grant from the Adiuvans Foundation, hoping to develop a community of practice in this region that can serve as a national resource as we seek solutions to sea level rise flooding.

 

Flood Protection, Environmental Quality, and Fiscal Savings - How to Get Them All in Your Community

Flood Levels Recorded and House Elevated Above Them in Background

Flood Levels Recorded and House Elevated Above Them in Background

We just released a new study on how communities can take extra steps to deal with flooding/sea level rise, reduce their flood insurance costs, and - just maybe - increase open space and shoreline habitat!

Wetlands Watch is always looking for leverage to increase shoreline resiliency. Sea Level Rise is taking its toll and we need every tool we have to keep ahead.

With premiums increasing for the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) we looked for ways to help communities support flood proofing and habitat protection at the same time. The NFIP rewards communities for taking flood protection steps above the minimum - uses the Community Rating System to evaluate floodproofing and award points toward reduced premium costs.

Trouble is the CRS evaluation is hard to map onto the wide range of options and actions that local governments take - so we did the research and produced this study. We also took a special look at environmental solutions to the flooding problems - don't want to just put up concrete walls. AND we looked at how local governments can take credit for NFIP premium reductions for things they are doing to reduce storm water pollution.

Phone App Upgrade Being Tested!

We've been working on crowdsourcing flood information for a few years using our novel smart phone app. We just got a grant to upgrade it to V2.0 - making it much easier for users.