Southeast Virginia Adopts Sea Level Rise Projections

Hampton Roads Planning district Commission Projections

Hampton Roads Planning district Commission Projections

Snapshot: As we have discussed before, there are too many sea level projections being made without enough guidance on which one(s) to use. The Hampton Roads Planning District Commission (HRPDC) has approved a guidance for localities in Southeast Virginia, one of the few regions in the country to do so.

Backstory: For local governments looking to start sea level rise adaptation implementation, a major challenge exists: what projections of sea level rise are appropriate for the adaptation project? Government agencies and academia have produced a confusing array of projections that, rather than driving adaptation, actually delay it. We have heard from local governments facing this challenge that they would rather wait until there is consensus or until the state government picks a curve.

Even that action has risks. Choose a curve with too low a rate of sea level rise and the adaptation project will fail to produce the expected protection. Choose a curve too high and scare resources are wasted. Wetlands Watch has been arguing for a set of recommendations to be made, seeing localities starting to turn plans into action along the shoreline.

Now our own home region has taken that step, with a set of recommendations for localities in southeast Virginia to use in their flooding mitigation work. This is one of the few concrete actions taken in the country to address this need and the HRPDC is to be applauded for this first step. The guidance states we can expect about 1.5’ of sea level rise by 2040, 3’ of sea level rise by 2070, and 4.5’ of sea level rise by 2000.

This action will also help the state as it struggles with this issue in the recently-issued Executive Order on Sea Level Rise.