Federal flood study on Norfolk proposes $1.4 billion in projects

Coastal flooding in the Riverview section of Norfolk in September 2017 (Southside Daily photo)
Coastal flooding in the Riverview section of Norfolk in September 2017 (Southside Daily photo)

NORFOLK — A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study investigating coastal storm risk management problems and solutions for this city reached an important milestone last month.

The Norfolk Coastal Storm Risk Management Study considered coastal storm risk management and resilience planning initiatives and projects underway by Army Corps and other federal, state, and local agencies. The report recommends a $1.4 billion project that would include storm-surge barriers, nearly eight miles of flood wall, a mile of levee, 11 tide gates, and seven pump and power stations, according to a news release from the city.

Commanding General and Chief Engineer of the Army Corps Lt. Gen. Todd T. Semonite signed the Chief’s Report recommending the study’s findings for congressional authorization.

“This milestone is tremendous achievement,” said Col. Patrick Kinsman, Norfolk District commander. “For three years, our Norfolk team, along with our city of Norfolk partners, worked tirelessly to develop a solution for one of our nation’s toughest challenges. We’re off to a great start and there’s a lot more work ahead of us.”

Congress may choose to authorize the project for construction, commonly accomplished through a Water Resource Development Act, according to the news release. After an authorization, the project cannot be constructed until it is budgeted.

The signing of the Chief’s Report marks the end of the feasibility phase, and begins the next phase — pre-construction, engineering, and design, which typically lasts at least two to three years.

Related story: Dredge, baby, dredge…The Army Corps is in town, clearing the way

“Norfolk has a tremendous working relationship with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Norfolk District,” said Mayor Kenneth Cooper Alexander. “We look forward to taking the study’s recommendations to the next phase of planning for construction.”

Economists forecast the project’s estimated annual net benefits at $122 million, according to the city. This includes a reduction in economic damages from coastal-storm risk to businesses, residents and infrastructure, reduced risk to human health and safety from storm impacts, and the local economy’s improved resilience to impacts from coastal storms.

The study was the first completed feasibility study in response to a larger North Atlantic Coast Comprehensive Study, which Army Corps completed following Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The study was authorized by resolution of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

The report will undergo further review by the office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, and Office of Management and Budget before formal submission to Congress.

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