Virginia Executive Order on Sea Level Rise Signals Progress to Come

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Snapshot: Virginia Governor Ralph Northam issued and executive order on sea level rise and resiliency that will result in a statewide plan to address our coastal flooding issues.

Backstory: Virginia has finally stepped up to deal with its sea level rise and resiliency challenges, one of the few states developing a comprehensive coastal strategy. On November 2, 2018, Governor Ralph Northam issued Executive Order #24, ““Increasing Virginia’s Resilience to Sea Level Rise and Natural Hazards,” setting out the actions that Virginia will take in coming months to put together a state response to sea level rise.

The Executive Order has the state look at its building and determine their vulnerability and set standards for new construction going forward. There is a review of the state’s pre-disaster mitigation programs and guidance for localities on sea level rise projections and freeboard (additional elevation above the flood plain) guidance for new construction.

The most significant part of the Executive Order is the development of a Virginia Coastal Resilience Master Plan, an outline of what is needed in the state to address coastal flood risk. The plan is a comprehensive look at the current state of risk and needs and will be updated every five years, in order to stay current. The draft Plan should be ready by fall of 2019 and will be led by the new Special Assistant to the Governor for Coastal Adaptation and Protection, RADM (ret) Ann Phillips of Norfolk, VA. (and former Wetlands Watch board member!)

Wetlands Watch has been providing assistance to the administration officials working on this executive order and just secured a grant to continue this work.