Virginia Beach captures federal grant to combat sea level rise

VIRGINIA BEACH — The city won an $844,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to help it study and cope with sea level rise.

Hampton Roads ranks behind only New Orleans as the most vulnerable area to rising sea levels in the nation, according to the city’s announcement for the grant. The money will be used to continue a citywide analysis that will help Virginia Beach prepare for emergencies related to sea level rise. The study began in 2014 and is expected to be completed in 2018.

Image from 2014 city presentation on eastern Shore Drive drainage improvements. (Courtesy of vbgov.com)
Image from a 2014 public works presentation on eastern Shore Drive drainage improvements. (Courtesy of vbgov.com)

NOAA said on its website that the research will look for new strategies to deal with sea level rise, including infrastructure relocation and new infrastructure construction standards.

“We are thrilled to receive this grant,” Mayor Will Sessoms said in the city’s release. “It will support our ongoing efforts to combat rising sea levels throughout Coastal Virginia. This project represents another smart and effective step toward ensuring Virginia Beach’s resilience for years to come.”

The city will work with the Georgetown Climate Center, Old Dominion University and the professional services firm Dewberry to determine the best ways to adapt. It will share those strategies with neighboring cities and work with local businesses and homeowners to implement them, the release said.

By the century’s end, the region could be dealing with between $12 billion and $87 billion in direct economic costs from rising seal levels, according to estimates in a Hampton Roads Planning District Commission study, the release said.

The grant is from NOAA’s Regional Coastal Resilience Grant Program, which is in its first year and designed to support regional strategies for dealing with climate hazards and changing ocean conditions. The agency received more than 130 applications and funded 12 of them, the release said.

Jeffery Payne, director of the NOAA Office for Coastal Management, said in the release that America’s coastal communities face complex problems, and solving them will require ingenuity, collaboration and strong science.

Virginia Beach has taken several  steps in recent years in anticipation of sea level rise, including tripling the width of its beaches and building a new protective seawall and boardwalk, according to the release.

Have a story idea or news tip? Contact City Hall reporter Judah Taylor at Judah@SouthsideDaily.com or 757-490-2750.

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