Virginia Beach Public Works requests $464M in unfunded stormwater needs

Virginia Beach flood control
Water resource engineer Phillip Roehrs presents flood control projects and improvements to Virginia Beach city council. (Justin Belichis)

Virginia Beach Public Works is asking the city for nearly half a billion dollars to pay for unfunded stormwater projects by financing its enhanced stormwater program.

City council heard the VBPW proposal at its meeting Tuesday and no decisions have been made to move forward at this point. But the city is starting to look at ways to pay for it.

“We’ve been at this for quite a while,” said Phil Davenport, director of VBPW. “When Matthew came through, it didn’t really give us a lot of new projects. But what it did was expose some of the vulnerability we knew we already had.”

At this point, the existing funding in the stormwater utility isn’t enough for current and future years, according to VBPW’s presentation.

Driving factors for the request include new MS4 permit requirements, new project proposals associated with Hurricane Matthew flooding, maintenance costs for aging infrastructure and reducing maintenance cycle times, according to the presentation.

The grand total comes to $464.5 million, which is comprised of projects and proposals organized by urgency in a tiered system.

  • Tier 1 (critical) unfunded needs – $404,350,000
  • Tier 2 (necessary) unfunded needs – $35,100,000
  • Tier 3 (recommended) unfunded needs – $25,000,000

The bulk of tier one needs stem from drainage projects in neighborhoods like Windsor Woods, Princess Anne Plaza, Ashville Park and more. The total for these drainage projects and improvements comes to $363.2 million.

Water resource engineer Phillip Roehrs said VBPW could have more detailed engineering models and a solution set to take a step forward with these improvements as early as next March.

Stormwater regulatory compliance manager Melanie Coffey presented water quality and regulatory compliance unfunded needs, which include new MS4 stormwater permit requirements and identification, design and construction of water quality improvements.

The MS4 stormwater permit requirements require program administration and reporting, stormwater pollution reduction, public outreach and education and more.

Stormwater operations engineer Cheryl Cole presented unfunded stormwater needs for VBPW’s operations side, which include Oceanfront stormwater facility maintenance, pump water maintenance and canal dredging.

David Bradley presented a source funding model the city could explore to finance the stormwater needs request, which includes money from light rail, specifically a $5 charge from the driver’s license fee.

“One of the reason we brought all of those other funding sources from light rail is because we believe that the dedicated revenues that we’re going to put into stormwater may be as important, or greater, than the dedications we currently have,” City Manager Dave Hansen said.

“We believe that the $5 that we add to the cars are principally the most affected by flooding are cars … We lost a higher percentage of cars than the percentage of houses.”

Council member Barbara Henley said news of this proposal would mean council members “have explaining to do.” Mayor Will Sessoms said this, along with a plan for the old Norfolk southern right-of-way, are topics of discussion for a planning meeting in January.

“This is great information and we’ve been asking for it, and there are some issues we need to deal with,” Sessoms said. “To what extent we deal with it is still to be determined. How we pay for it is still to be determined.”


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