Legislative Study Urges Virginia to Launch Coordinated Planning to Avoid Catastrophic Flooding

April 30, 2013

A new study calls on the State of Virginia and coastal localities to launch a comprehensive and coordinated planning effort to avoid catastrophic flooding related to sea-level rise.

The report predicts that flood risk will continue to worsen for at least the next 50 years. For example, more than 40 percent of Virginia's Accomack and Northampton counties could face severe flooding from an estimated sea-level rise of one and a half feet and storm surges of an additional three feet -- numbers the study says represent  “a very moderate assumption” for the region.   

The report was issued by a group led by he Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS)  in January 2013, noting that it takes 20 to 30 years to effectively plan and implement many of the necessary strategies to prepare for climate changes. The Virginia legislature authorized the report, Recurrent Flooding Study for Tidewater Virginia, to study recurrent flooding in the state.

The report recommends the state request an expert review of local government legal authority to address current and projected flooding risks and enact any enabling authority needed to allow localities to address these risks. As part of a comprehensive strategy for addressing recurrent flooding issues throughout Tidewater Virginia, the report also recommends prioritization of areas for flood management actions based on risk and further studies, which would identify potential preparation strategies, assess the feasibility of implementing identified strategies, and analyze the costs and benefits of these strategies.

Working with the Office of the Secretary of Natural Resources under Governor Kaine, the Georgetown Climate Center published a report in 2010 (updated in 2013), Stemming the Tide, which analyzed the authority of Virginia localities to implement adaptation strategies identified in the state’s Climate Action Plan.