sea level rise

Wetlands Watch Summary of Adaptation Data Needs and Funding Sources

What Virginia Localities Need to Deal with Flooding

What Virginia Localities Need to Deal with Flooding


Snapshot: We hear from a lot professionals and government decision makers about what kinds of information and data they need in order to start implementing flood management/sea level rise adaptation measures. We also hear lots of ways we might find funding to start this work. We pulled this information together in one place to accelerate implementation.

Backstory: As Virginia’s coastal communities move from studies and plans about flooding to putting those ideas into action, they are starting to find data gaps and needs that are impeding progress. Floodplain managers, local government planners, adaptation decision makers, and others along our shorelines began talking about these issues a while ago and there was a clear need to develop a comprehensive list of these data needs. With this list we could fashion a strategic approach to start ticking needed items off and also help set priorities for the new Virginia initiatives being proposed. But to be effective, any list had to come from comprehensive interviews with the stakeholders.

The report is organized by category (data needed for planning, data needed for stormwater, etc.) and each data need also indicates which stakeholder reported the data need to enable users to connect with others sharing those suggestions. By listing the points of contatct for each organization in the back of the report we hope to facilitate this networking.

As our shorline communities move to implementation, funding quickly becomes an issue. There is a similar need to develop a comprehensive list of potential funding sources for this flood management/sea level rise adaptation work.

Virginia’s Coastal Zone Management Program saw these information needs as well and asked Wetlands Watch to conduct a review of critical data needs that had to be addressed, as well as a review of potential funding sources that could support implementation of projects along Virginia’s coastline. This recent study pulls that information together.

This work needs to be done all along our coastline, so that we can begin to share resources and find ways to address the data gaps and maybe, just maybe, start pulling together the funding to implement solutions.

Zoning Rewrite in Norfolk Offers Potential Breakthrough on Adaptation

Schematic of how Norfolk’s resilience point system would work to retire development rights

Schematic of how Norfolk’s resilience point system would work to retire development rights

Snapshot: Norfolk has rewritten its zoning ordinance to make it more “resilient.” Key to this novel approach is a scheme to reward developers who take flooded property and put it into a land trust, fostering an orderly retreat for frequently flooded properties. Wetlands Watch wants to figure out the details, make this work in Norfolk, and then export it along the coast.

Backstory: As we reported, the City of Norfolk, Virginia, spent the last three years rewriting its zoning ordinance, the operating plan for how people develop and do business in this coastal city. We were part of a team helping the city and feel the ordinance is novel in a number of respects, raising resilience standards for development across the city, establishing a novel point system of actions required before development can occur, combining the 10-year floodplain and the 500-year floodplain in a "Coastal Resilience Overlay" (CRO)  district with special conditions for development.

But the most novel of the changes is the emergence of a development option that awards resilience points to a project being planned in the higher parts of the city ("Upland Resilience Overlay") if it extinguishes development rights in the CRO. Under this provision a developer would buy a property in the CRO (or purchase the development rights only) and then transfer it to a land trust. This transaction is a private arrangement between the developer, the property owner in the CRO, and a land trust. The land would be put into a conservation easement, allowing the property owner to take advantage of federal tax deductions and state tax credits.

Wetlands Watch is working with the Elizabeth River Project’s Living River Restoration Trust (LRRT), a new urban land trust working along the Elizabeth River. The LRRT is a partner in this work and is developing a critical role in the restoration of an urbanized shoreline in Southeastern Virginia and adding this forward-looking adaptation component. We recently made a presentation on this proposal that explains more completely what we envision.

Increasing numbers of shoreline property owners are trapped in their homes, unable to sell them at market value due to high flood insurance premium costs or recurrent flooding that becomes a known problem for the property. This Norfolk zoning provision provides some escape for those properties and allows the owner to extract much of the invested value in direct payment from the developer and in the form of tax deductions and credits.

There is much complexity in these transactions, however, and much uncertainty. This arrangement has not been tried anywhere in the country so some adjustments, tweaking, and changes will be needed. For the parties involved, there will need to be more certainty about the economics of the transaction before this comes into widespread use.

Wetlands Watch also wants to have these arrangements contain “rolling easements,” provisions for triggering abandonment of the property when certain natural/flooding/flood loss conditions are met.

We are seeking funding for a two-year project to develop this work into a pilot demonstration that we can move into other Virginia communities and then along the entire US coastline.

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.

Higher Coastal Flooding Brings Higher Levels of Water Pollution

Nutrient Pollution Sampling (background) Assisted by Local Canine (foreground)

Nutrient Pollution Sampling (background) Assisted by Local Canine (foreground)

Snapshot: “Measure the Muck,” citizen science water monitoring program in Virginia, reveals new pollution threats from nuisance flooding. One flood day’s nutrient load equals an entire year’s projected pollution!

Backstory: For the last two years, a citizen science effort has been held to measure the extent of flooding on the highest projected tide of the year, the so-called “King Tide.” At the same time, another citizen science group has been our measuring as well - not where the water goes to when it floods, but rather what the flood waters bring back into our creeks and rivers when they recede.

The work is led by Old Dominion University Oceanography Professor, Dr. Margaret Mulholland, using students from the university as well as regional high school students to take samples. Hampton Roads Sanitation District provided support for the sample collection and processing.

The results from 2017’s sampling even are in - bacterial counts extremely high and nitrogen pollution off the charts as well. The preliminary results show that in the one day’s flooding, the total nitrogen pollution load to the Lafayette River was equal to an entire year’s loading as predicted by the regulatory model. The models do not take these extreme events into account, nor do they take the impacts of flood waters bringing pollution back into our watersheds.

This work is being replicated but these early results show yet another impact from these higher tidal waters that are inundating coastal communities.

Virginia Executive Order on Sea Level Rise Signals Progress to Come


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.

What Goes Around, Comes Around - Time to Review 2008 Commission on Climate Change Roadmap

Ten Years On and Much to Do

Ten Years On and Much to Do

In 2008, then-Governor Kaine appointed a Commission on Climate Change to study the impacts of climate change on Virginia and to outline the ways we need to respond. The Commission issued a report that outlined a consensus action plan for Virginia. The Commission's work languished, a subsequent Governor had it removed from the state's website (Wetlands Watch obtained the source code and reconstructed it on our server.) The last Governor convened a Commission to review the situation but little came of that effort.

Now we have a new Governor, Ralph Northam, who was actually a member of the 2008 Commission on Climate Change, and he is very interested in taking on some of these nagging issues. In fact, he was the author of legislation that enacted two of the provisions in the Commission's recommendations on adaptation to sea level rise.

The action agenda from 2008 is ready to go, since the suggested actions do not require legislation. We hope in coming months that some of these provisions will be acted upon as we enter the second decade without a significant statewide response to Sea Level Rise (this in a state that has the highest rate of sea level rise on the Atlantic Coast!)

Planning for Sea Level Rise? Guess Which Projection Works Best.

If you're seeking guidance on which of these sea level rise projections to use....good luck!

If you're seeking guidance on which of these sea level rise projections to use....good luck!

Snapshot: We are seeing an array of sea level rise projections that vary widely. The only advice being given to adaptation project designers is “Pick one.” Virginia’s coastal communities need better advice than that. Wetlands Watch is pressing for some action.

Backstory": After years of planning and study, Virginia's coastal localities are starting to implement adaptation strategies and develop resilient infrastructure in the face of the highest sea level rise on the Atlantic Coast. However, as these efforts started moving forward, we noticed a variety of estimates of sea level rise rates being used. Even within the federal government - even within the Department of Defense - there were different estimates being used for different projects in the same city.

We took a little time to document this and sure enough there is a range of projects being designed to different rates of sea level rise. In a region that is so interconnected that is a problem. Not that everyone has to use the same projections for every type of project, but there should at least be some general guidance on how to go about wisely spending taxpayer dollars in these adaptation projects.

The federal government bailed on any attempts at guidance when the Obama-era flood standards were junked just before Hurricane Harvey hit Houston. The state of Virginia has never offered guidance. In fact it does not consider sea level rise in any of the state's infrastructure investments or regulatory programs.

Wetlands Watch wants to change that. Other states and regions offer guidance on rates of sea level rise. We want Virginia to join that effort and are seeing opportunity in the emerging resilience initiative pushed by Governor Ralph Northam. Expect some action on this problem in coming months.

Study Confirms What We Are Seeing - Nuisance Flooding is Increasing/Will Continue to Increase

Porjections of flood days per year, from NOAA Study

Porjections of flood days per year, from NOAA Study

SNAPSHOT: A new study from NOAA projects increases in high tide flooding onto streets and sidewalks in shoreline communities. These floods will occur every other day - possibly every day - by 2100 even using very conservative sea level rise estimates. Given the time and money required to mitigate the damage from this constant flooding, we need to start yesterday to put adaptation measures in place.

BACKSTORY: Anecdotally, Wetlands Watch has been hearing for years that tidal water levels seem to be increasing. At community meetings and service club talks, we heard more complaints that tidal waters were lapping over roads and sidewalks and coming up out of stormwater pipes and ditches. We observed changes in rural ditches in Mathews County, ditches that were dry when we started working up there in 2008 and now are full of water most days and have tidal wetlands plants growing in them. We have documented this nuisance flooding in urban areas.

Projections for Downtown Norfolk, VA by Dr's. Tal Ezer and Larry Atkinson of Old Dominion University.

Projections for Downtown Norfolk, VA by Dr's. Tal Ezer and Larry Atkinson of Old Dominion University.

In the graph above, two oceanographers from Old Dominion University in Virginia developed projections of future nuisance flood risk. The blue in the graph is the observed flooding (hours per year) since the tide gauge at the Norfolk Naval Station was put into service in 1927. The green bars in the graph are the projected flooding hours/year with the current rate of sea level rise. The red bars are the projected flooding hours/year with the accelerated rate of sea level rise we are seeing, about twice the current rate.

Solutions? Start today with detailed maps of where flooding will occur. Take extra precautions to build "freeboard" or additional flood protection into local land use actions or federal investments along the coast. Start developing comprehensive plans among all the stakeholders - public and private - to address the flooding.

Oh, and we need to start stacking up the dollar bills needed to pay for all the work we have to do.

Wetlands Watch Study Shows Positive Benefit for CRS Work

We've been working hard to promote the Community Rating System (CRS) along Virginia's tidal floodplains. A program of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), CRS rewards localities that take extra steps to flood-proof their communities by reducing the premiums charged for flood insurance. What gets Wetlands Watch excited is some of the greatest rewards come from preserving opens space in flood plains, open space that has wetlands on it and will offer "retreat" zones for wetlands as sea levels rise.

The problem is that getting into the CRS requires a fair amount of staff work and training in what is a fairly complicated program. These up-front barriers are often cited as reasons that more localities do not participate in the program - only 9% of Virginia localities participate. We know that over time the benefits from participaing in the CRS program are large, but we had not been able to prove it.

Now we can, thanks to the Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program that gave us a grant to figure out the costs and benefits of being a part of the CRS. We just finished a report that shows the benefits of being part of the CRS far outweigh the costs of participating.

Regional Citizen Science Effort Grows - "Measure the Muck" Added

Measure the Muck logo

Measure the Muck logo

Snapshot: While we're out measuring the extent of the flooding, a team will also be measuring the pollution being washed off the land by that flooding.

Backstory: Southeast Virginia/Hampton Roads is embarking on one of the largest citizen science efforts ever with it's King Tide mapping event. Now, another effort has been added, "Measure the Muck."

This new effort is the brainchild of Dr. Margaret Mulolland of Old Dominion University, who does a lot of work on harmful algal blooms. While most folks here worry about where the water goes when it tops the bank, she wonders what it brings back with it when it recedes. She suspects that these flooding events bring a load of nutrients and bacteria into our rivers and bays, providing the fuel for algal blooms. Controlling this loading would help manage these algal blooms but no one has measured the amount of nutrients and bacteria being washed from the land.

So a group of volunteers will go out on Nov 5 with field kits for collecting water samples around stormwater outfalls that will later be tested (thanks to the Hampton Roads Sanitation District for providing the funding).

Wetlands Watch's interest in this (other than the fact that Dr. Mulholland is our executive director's spouse!) is to explore the co-benefits of nature based solutions to stormwater and flood management. If the areas that flood are also significant sources of pollution, we can better target our efforts and use one dollar to fix two problems.

Oct 21 Sea Level Rise app test

Oct 21 Sea Level Rise app test

We've got some volunteers signed up for "Measure the Muck," 28 people so far. As shown above, on a sunny Saturday, Oct. 21, a group of Old Dominion University students together with a bunch of Maury High School students tested the app in preparation for the stormwater pollution measurement citizen science effort.


Measure the Muck sampling crew getting trained as the water seeps underfoot.

Measure the Muck sampling crew getting trained as the water seeps underfoot.

On the day of the flooding event, the Muck teams were assembled and given sampling equipment. The teams of students fanned out across Norfolk along the Layfayette River watershed to take samples from flooded areas.

Muck team samples flood waters in Norfolk - Maury High School and Old Dominion University Students (and even a 7th grader in the foreground taking the sample!)

Muck team samples flood waters in Norfolk - Maury High School and Old Dominion University Students (and even a 7th grader in the foreground taking the sample!)

While the samples are still being analyzed, early results are showing high levels of pollution. Most of the bacteria samples had concentrations so dense they were beyond the ability of the lab equipment to measure it!

Coming Down from the Hills to Study Sea Level Rise

David Imburgia from the City of Hampton speaks (and gestures!) to Virginia Tech students working to help on the City's resilience plan.

David Imburgia from the City of Hampton speaks (and gestures!) to Virginia Tech students working to help on the City's resilience plan.

Snapshot: University academic programs are starting to make a difference in adaptation work in Virginia through collaborative partnerships with local governments to solve pressing problems.

Backstory: A group of 28 Virginia Tech students (6 graduate and 22 senior undergrads) from a range of disciplines are working in the city of Hampton to help with their city-wide resilience planning. The effort is part of Wetlands Watch's collaborative resilience laboratory, or "Collaboratory," which seeks to partner Virginia's tidal communities with the State's academic institutions that offer community-based learning opportunities (practicums, capstone courses, place-based learning courses, etc.). The goal is to match need with opportunity to advance adaptation implementation in Virginia. Our major partner in this work is Virginia Sea Grant, which has seven university members in Virginia and is eager to help them find a role to play in addressing coastal Virginia's flooding problems.

The effort grew out of our successful work in the Chesterfield Heights neighborhood in Norfolk in which student teams from Old Dominion University (engineering) and Hampton University (architecture) joined forces using an award from Virginia Sea Grant to design an adaptation plan for that community. Subsequent work with the University of Virginia in the Ingleside neighborhood proved that this approach was useful for both the community and the university students. In both cases the student work resulted in significant implementation grants to the city of Norfolk and its partners.

The Virginia Tech team is led by Geography professor, Dr. Anamaria Bukvic, whose "Climate Change and Social Impact" class was looking for a location on which it could focus its efforts. Wetlands Watch knew of Hampton's work and the significant effort being expended to develop a resilience plan, so we contacted city staff and they quickly found a role for the students to play. Over the course of this semester they will assist in developing approaches for three different communities along Hampton's Chesapeake Bay shoreline.

Wetlands Watch and Virginia Sea Grant are seeking more of these collaborations over the next three years of funding for the Collaboratory. We are also seeking to export this model to other coastal regions.

Fall Storms Bring Flooding to SE Virginia

The impact of four feet of flooding on Hampton Boulevard, the major N/S road in west Norfolk. This is one of two roads leading Naval Station Norfok.

Jose and Maria are messing with Southeast Virginia. The video above is Hampton Boulevard in Norfolk, VA during the run up to the high tides on September 19, 2017, from Jose. On Sept 26 and 27 another set of high tides is hitting. At least these "modest" floods help us find all the areas that flood so we can put them on the map.

We are also in the midst of a major regional, crowdsource flood mapping effort around the hugest projected tide on November 5, 2017, the so-called "King Tide" of the year. We've been holding mapping trainings leading up to that event.

During the Jose floods I was out in the water doing some mapping. The images below show a flooded residential neighborhood in Norfolk (left) and the flood mapping I did (right) using the Sea Level Rise phone app. Walking the edge of the flooded zone, I dropped GIS pins every 4-5 feet and got an outline of the flooding., showing the extent of the inundation. The data set can be exported as an .xls or .csv file and transformed into a shape form on a map and used to test inundation models. All of this helps us project where the water will come next time we get +4' of water.

Vehicle Flood Loss Needs a Strategy

October 2, 2015 Nor'easter Catches Norfolk Motorist

October 2, 2015 Nor'easter Catches Norfolk Motorist

Nearly all the talk on flooding and mitigation involves real estate and property damage. Very rarely is the issue of vehicle damage and loss discussed in flood mitigation planning. Much of that is because there is are federal, state, and local programs dealing with real property flood losses. To be eligible for the federal government National Flood Insurance Program a locality has to have flood plain plans, ordinances, etc. but they mostly deal with real estate protection. Vehicles are privately insured so there is no requirement to develop comprehensive plans to prevent auto losses. However, Hurricane Harvey is showing the extent of those losses, highlighting the need to start dealing with them.

Vehicle losses are largely preventable because, unlike houses, you can move your car to higher ground - or the elevated public garages that most cities open as flood events approach. As long as you don't drive onto flooded sections of road - like the car above - you can protect your car.

Preventing vehicle loss, however, is more complicated and expensive than real estate flood protection. Road inundation information is not comprehensively reported nor is location of auto losses. (We are trying to deal with the road inundation mapping with our smart phone app.)

Elevating low-lying sections of road is expensive and paying for the work falls mostly on state and local government transportation budgets. There is no dedicated transportation flooding adaptation funding anywhere at the state or federal level, so this work competes with regular transportation maintenance projects. Federal funding to address these needs comes AFTER a flood event in the form of disaster relief.

The city of Norfolk, VA spent $1.2 million in 2010 raising one block to fix the flooding in one residential neighborhood. It spent $2.4 million raising a 200 yard stretch of a major downtown road 2 1/2 feet to prevent flooding. Luckily Norfolk has a plan, so that these projects fit into their larger adaptation puzzle. But no city has a comprehensive way of addressing vehicle losses due to flooding.

Auto flood losses are more widespread than house and business flooding, with nearly 50 % of households reporting flood loss citing auto damage/loss, according to a recent study done in Portsmouth, VA. And insurance companies are starting to notice. Just an anecdote but I recently heard from a person whose auto insurance company refused her renewal because her street address showed too many surrounding auto flood losses.

If we're going to get a handle on adaptation costs and needs, we need to start dealing with the auto damage and loss piece of the puzzle.

Regional Flood Mapping Event Uses "Sea Level Rise" Phone App


Snapshot: This fall, Hampton Roads will be holding the country's first major flood mapping exercise with commercial media partners. The Wetlands Watch Phone app, Sea Level Rise, will be the tool used in this November 5, 2017, event which we hope to map across the entire SE Virginia region.

Backstory: Every fall, we get higher full and new moon tides - as much as 2 feet higher - because the moon is closer to the earth. These Perigean High Tides are often nicknamed "King Tides" and in low lying regions like ours they cause increased nuisance flooding.

This year, the highest tide happens on November 5, 2017, and we have a unique event planned for that day: a first-ever public, regional flood mapping event using our Sea Level Rise flooding app.  Making this event even more unique is its sponsorship by our two regional newspapers - the Virginian Pilot and the Daily Press - as well as our regional NPR station, WHRO, and a regional commercial TV station, WVEC.

The Sea Level Rise app was developed using a blue moon fund grant in 2014, in partnership with Concursive, a Norfolk-based technology company. The app was further refined with the help of the Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve in New Jersey who supported the development of V 2.0.. 

The two images above preview what can be produced. The image to the left above displays an outline of the flooding we experienced during the September, 2015 King Tide. The mapping was done with our phone app. The app data was exported to our friends at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) to help them with their flooding models. Dr. Derek Loftis at VIMS has been collaborating with us on this work.

The image to the right above shows those same 2015 data points that Dr. Loftis laid on top of a VIMS map showing the expected inundation on November 5, 2017, the highest high tide of 2017. These VIMS maps will help us target our volunteers to map that day. We hope to cover all the cities and counties that make up Hampton Roads.

You can get the full map and storyboard from VIMS/Dr.Loftis HERE.

Stay tuned for more updates - we started with a soft launch on August 14, test events will be held through Sept and Oct, leading up to the November 5 event. For more information from the Virginian Pilot, their event website has info and signup forms.



Finanical Sector Takes Coastal Risks Seriously.....NOT!

Waves break around a destroyed roller coaster in Seaside Heights, New Jersey, on Nov. 16, 2012. Photographer: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Waves break around a destroyed roller coaster in Seaside Heights, New Jersey, on Nov. 16, 2012. Photographer: Mario Tama/Getty Images

An interesting article from Bloomberg about the reality in the finance sector regarding their perception of risk from sea level rise. We hear lots about the insurance and bond underwriting sectors taking these risks seriously. We hear people say that the financial sector will begin to withdraw from risky coastal regions.

The reality..?

From the article: " When asked by Bloomberg, none of the big three bond raters could cite an example of climate risk affecting the rating of a city’s bonds."

And the sea level rise risk on the Jersey Shore, recently decimated by "superstorm" Sandy? -  "'It didn’t come up, which says to me they’re not concerned about it,' says John Bartlett, the Ocean County representative who negotiated with the rating companies. Both gave the bonds a perfect triple-A rating."

One interesting note is that Moody's has been nosing around the Hampton Roads region, asking localities what they are doing about sea level rise.  See a sample response from the City of Virginia Beach.

Even If You Pay Them to Go, They'll Stay At the Shore

$23 million Steel Wall in NJ  (Katrina d'Autremont-Bloomberg)

$23 million Steel Wall in NJ (Katrina d'Autremont-Bloomberg)

Very interesting article about how the post-Sandy fund designed to buy people out in vulnerable areas is not working. More emphasis on armoring and staying in place instead. This is disturbing since efforts are being made to generate funding - such as Virginia's Shoreline Resiliency Fund - but these funds may not do what we want if folks don't want to move.

Flood Insurance Changes - Great Article on Impacts

Adaptation Choices in Norfolk (l to r) - raise, wait, rebuild  (photo NYT - Benjamin Lowy)

Adaptation Choices in Norfolk (l to r) - raise, wait, rebuild (photo NYT - Benjamin Lowy)

New York Times Magazine takes a look at the issue of flood insurance and its impacts, implications, and responses in Norfolk, VA. Great article by Brooke Jarvis - makes a complicated issue understandable and human.

This is just the start of the changes in coastal communities as risk - both present and future risk - gets priced into the economy. Resilience now means more than dealing with physical protection and environmental improvement. We have to deal with the economic consequences of the changes that we are seeing if we are to really become resilient.

More Action on Alternative Coastal Funding

With all the talk of budget cuts in Washington, including cuts to FEMA disaster programs, states and localities along the shore need to find new ways of dealing with essential flooding fixes. We documented the need for new revenue streams a few years ago in our report on the backlog in flooding mitigation funding. We found that in one Virginia city, if you were at ten end of the waiting list, you'd wait 188 years for someone to get around to helping you fix your house.

We worked with State Senator Lynwood Lewis who sponsored legislation to create a state revolving loan fund for property owners to use. It was patterned after a similar fund in Connecticut, ShoreUP CT. The Virginia Shoreline Resiliency Fund became law in 2016 but there was no funding made available. Next step is to get funding for the revolving loan fund.

Now another state - Rhode Island - is considering this approach to funding coastal protection. Legislation introduced there would create the "Rhode Island Coastal Adaptation Trust Fund," to provide money to fix coastal infrastructure at risk from sea level rise and flooding. That Fund would get money from a 5 cent/barrel surcharge on petroleum products.

We will be watching that legislation in coming months as all of us along America's coastline struggle to adapt.

San Francisco Resilient by Design Challenge

The San Francisco Bay area climate change adaptation effort is getting a big boost thanks to a $4.6 million Rockefeller Foundation grant underwriting a design competition: Resilient By Design: Bay Area Challenge. This work follows on a 2009 design effort in the region, Rising Tides, which was the inspiration for Wetlands Watch's adaptation design efforts.

This could be a great step forward, coming as it does before the problem gets acute. We in other soggy regions will be watching this design work with interest.

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.