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.