Towns Will Cut Flooding While Boosting Public Access and Compliance

The Takeaway: Virginia’s coastal towns will identify sites to protect and restore that fulfill a variety of needs.

Guidance will help thirty-seven of Virginia’s coastal communities address important local needs and regulatory requirements while identifying the best potential sites for wetland restoration, living shorelines, and other nature-based infrastructure.

For instance, municipalities will learn how specific natural infrastructure projects can help them meet Chesapeake Bay water-quality standards under the U.S. Clean Water Act. Many potential sites chosen also will provide greater public access, aesthetic appeal, and recreational opportunities while enabling communities to save money by applying for lower flood insurance rates through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Community Rating System.

A 2017 report by the National Institute of Building Sciences found that every dollar spent on hazard mitigation, such as natural infrastructure, can save the nation six dollars in future disaster costs. And the mitigation need has never been greater.

Flooding in Virginia has increased 250 percent since 2000, and the Hampton Roads region has the second-highest rate of sea level rise nationally, behind Louisiana. NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information found that 2017 was the costliest U.S. weather year in 123 years of record keeping, with floods, hurricanes, and other disasters costing $306.2 billion.

This project is funded by a NOAA Coastal Resilience Grant of $834,991, which leverages $418,640 in a nonfederal match for total of more than $1.25 million. The Virginia Institute of Marine Science leads the project and other partners include the Virginia Coastal Policy Center, Wetlands Watch, and many state agencies.

In 2017, NOAA’s coastal resilience grants funded 19 research projects in 14 states and Puerto Rico, totaling $13.8 million. The projects are working to restore nearly 1,100 acres of habitat and enabling about 350 coastal communities to better withstand extreme-weather impacts. The Office for Coastal Management administers NOAA’s Coastal Resilience Grant Program. (2018)

Partners: Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership, Virginia Coastal Policy Center, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, Wetlands Watch