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Summary of State Agency Action

Virginia’s Climate Change Action Plan (“2008 Plan”), finalized on December 15, 2008, includes 43 discrete goals related to climate change adaptation. These goals cover the following sectors: agriculture, biodiversity, coasts and oceans, infrastructure, public health and emergency preparedness, and water. This page describes some of the progress Virginia agencies are making related to each of these sectors. 

Agriculture

The 2008 Plan’s goals related to agriculture called for funding scientific institutions to develop climate projections and monitor and evaluate climate impacts to a range of sectors including agriculture; and an assessment of the consequences of climate change on management of runoff and agricultural best practices. However, there is no evidence that the state is making progress on any of the agricultural goals in the 2008 Plan.

Biodiversity

The 2008 Plan included several recommendations related to biodiversity including evaluating the impacts of climate change to native species and ecosystems; developing plans to preserve native species; and increasing conservation of important habitat sites.

One of the steps the Commonwealth has taken to protect the biodiversity from the impacts of climate change was to incorporate consideration of climate change when updating its State Wildlife Action Plan in 2015. The Virginia Wildlife Action Plan includes an assessment of climate impacts to habitats and species in Virginia and strategies for addressing potential impacts to biodiversity in the state.

 

Coasts & Oceans

Goals in the 2008 Plan related to coasts and oceans include recommendations that agencies update floodplain maps to account for future sea-level rise; acquire high-resolution LiDAR data for the coastal zone and then the whole state; update shoreline buffer requirements to account for future sea-level rise; and consider sea-level rise impacts in the planning, design, and prioritization of infrastructure projects. The Plan also calls on the Secretary of Natural Resources to develop an interagency sea-level rise adaptation strategy.

The 2008 Plan called for the state to adopt shoreline protection policies that emphasize the use of living shorelines and avoid shoreline hardening. In 2011, the Virginia legislature adopted Senate Bill (SB) 964 directing the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (in cooperation with the Department of Conservation and Recreation and with technical assistance from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science) to establish and implement regulations encouraging the use of living shorelines as the preferred alternative for stabilizing tidal shorelines in the Commonwealth. The state Department of Environmental Quality has also undertaken various initiatives to promote the use of living shorelines for managing shoreline erosion, including: providing guidance for local governments on shoreline management planning; providing outreach materials on living shorelines for landowners; and hosting trainings for contractors and local government staff. The Virginia Marine Resources Commission also adopted general permits to streamline permitting for living shoreline projects. The Commonwealth also received a $1.1 million grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to enhance the resilience of coastal wetlands to sea-level rise, which will update the Virginia Wetlands Condition Assessment Tool (WetCAT) to help the state identify high priority wetlands for purposes of permitting and regulatory compliance.

In 2016, the Commonwealth was awarded $120.5 million as one of the winners of the National Disaster Resilience Competition to implement the THRIVE: Resilience in Virginia project focused on the Hampton Roads region and Norfolk, Virginia. Through the project, the state will develop a “Resilience Lab/Accelerator” to provide workforce development and training for resilience jobs; provide business continuity services for coast-based businesses; deploy new green infrastructure solutions to reduce flood risks and improve water quality; buy out vulnerable coastal properties; construct living shoreline projects; elevate roads; and improve recreational areas; among other resilience projects.

Forestry

Virginia's 2008 Plan does not include any specific goals or actions relating to the Forestry sector.

Infrastructure

Virginia’s goals related to infrastructure include recommendations that adaptation plans be developed for critical infrastructure and that the Virginia Department of Transportation take into account climate impacts and sea-level rise in transportation planning and project design.  

To implement these goals, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) conducted a vulnerability assessment for transportation infrastructure in the Hampton Roads region as part of the Federal Highway Administration’s Pilot program. Using this analysis, VDOT made design changes to certain roadways to account for sea-level rise. For example, the state elevated a bridge segment of highway I-64 to adapt to five feet of future sea-level rise.

VDOT also considered climate change in the update to its long-range transportation plan, VTrans2035. And the Virginia Transportation Research Council analyzed how changing precipitation patterns and sea-level rise will change flood risks for transportation infrastructure in the state, including bridges and culverts, by developing a flood forecasting model called the Regional River Severe Storm model.

Public Health & 

Emergency Preparedness

Public Health

Goals in the 2008 Plan related to public health include a recommendation that the Virginia Department of Health monitor and track changes in harmful algal blooms and climate-change related diseases and work with local health departments and planning commissions to conduct assessments of vulnerable populations.

The Virginia Department of Health is making progress on these goals: it maintains an algal bloom surveillance map, which encourages citizens to report blooms; and it tracks heat-related and winter-weather related illnesses and injuries using a surveillance system called ESSENCE.

Emergency Management

The 2008 Plan also calls for the development of a state-wide assessment of the impacts of climate change on emergency preparedness. In its 2018 update to the Commonwealth of Virginia Hazard Mitigation Plan, the Virginia Department of Emergency Management considered how climate change will exacerbate risks of drought, extreme precipitation, and the transmission of vector-borne diseases. The plan also discusses how changing precipitation patterns and sea-level rise will increase risks of both coastal and inland flooding. The HMP estimates that the amount of rainfall that will fall during the heaviest rainfall events will increase more than 40 percent by the end of the century. Virginia also met the Enhanced HMP requirements, which will qualify the state for additional federal cost share for hazard mitigation funds in the event of a presidentially-declared-disaster-event.

 

Water

The Commonwealth’s water-related goals include assessing climate impacts to instream flow, and amending water planning rules to require local and regional planning agencies to assess climate impacts to water resources.

To this end, the 2015 update to the State Water Resources Plan discusses the effects of climate change and sea-level rise on the state’s water supply and includes recommendations on how Virginia can better prepare for future impacts.


(Research last updated: June 25, 2018).

 

 

 
 
 
 

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