This is the biggest challenge we face today.
Sea level rise, increased precipitation, and land subsidence are all contributing to the increased flooding that we are experiencing in Virginia Beach. The nature and frequency of our storm events is changing rapidly. In every day’s news, we learn more about the devastating impacts of climate change. This presents us with two sets of challenges, adaptation and mitigation.
As a coastal region already experiencing increased flooding, we have to take actions to adapt smartly to a future that will be very different. This is complicated in Virginia Beach by our various watersheds. We have water on all four sides of our city. The northern third of Virginia Beach is part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed and subject to lunar tides and storm surges. The Lynnhaven River watershed makes up most of that area, but on the west side there are also the Little Creek and Elizabeth River watersheds.
About 5% of our land area drains directing to the Atlantic Ocean. The largest part of that watershed is the Rudee-Owl Creek watershed. These areas, like the Chesapeake Bay watershed are subject to lunar tides and storm surges.
The largest land area in Virginia Beach is in our southern watersheds, 65% of Virginia Beach. The North Landing and Back Bay watersheds make up this part of our city. It includes the farm areas we value in Pungo, Blackwater and Creeds, but it also includes developed areas in Red Mill, Salem, Centerville and even Kempsville. These areas of our city drain south into the Albemarle and Pamilico Sounds and are subject to wind tides that can blow water up from the Allemarle and Pamilco and are generally low elevation with a high ground water table.
Each of these areas of our city have different challenges and different strategies for successful adaptation to the threat of increased flooding. Improved stormwater management, strategic development decisions, restoring our wetlands and oyster reefs, and conserving and expanding our conserved forests are all strategies that we need to employ in all areas of our city.
Many of the strategies that we have promoted to help clean up our waterways: installing rain barrels, rain gardens, and infiltration trenches as well as reducing impervious surfaces and turf grass, installing vegetated roofs, and planting trees also help control flooding.
Mitigation is all of the ways that we can be a part of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and slowing climate change. It is imperative that we take bold action as individuals, as a city, as a state and as a nation, if we are going to have any effect on the alarming climate changes the entire planet is experiences.
LRNow is committed to working with all of our members, residents, businesses and faith communities, to discover ways to reduce our energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. We are offering financial support for energy audits and encouraging all of our members to examine ways to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.
Trees are one of our most important tools for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and managing water. We are promoting tree planting with all of our partners and actively looking for opportunities for larger forest restoration projects. We are all discovering and celebrating the power of trees. LRNow has partnered with the Nature Conservancy and Virginia Tech University to study to benefits of conserved forest land and to plan carefully and smartly to protect and expand our conserved forest lands in Virginia Beach.
Hope in moderating the effects of climate change lies in every person’s individual commitment to make changes that can have large cumulative impacts.
Watch this page for more content as we learn more and develop our strategies and approach to adaptation. And keep in mind, as Paul Hawken said “If you look at the science about what is happening on earth and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t understand the data. But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of the poor, and aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a pulse. What I see everywhere in the world are ordinary people willing to confront despair, power, and incalculable odds in order to restore some semblance of grace, justice, and beauty to this world”.
City of Virginia Beach
This link will take you to a copy of the City of Virginia Beach’s comprehensive plan for dealing with sea level rise and increased flooding, Sea Level Wise. This is the culmination of many years of work and combines three earlier publications on specific aspects of this planning work. The Sea Level Wise plan includes policy and program recommendations, natural and nature-based strategies, and engineered strategies. All need to be a part of a successful program of adapting to changing conditions, protecting our natural resources, and ensuring a prosperous future for Virginia Beach.
Commonwealth Center for Recurrent Flooding Resilience
Following years of leadership, collaboration, and demonstrated expertise in a wide array of resilience and water-related disciplines, and recognizing that flooding affects the entire Commonwealth, Old Dominion University, the College of William & Mary, and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science have established the Commonwealth Center for Recurrent Flooding Resiliency. This is a collaborative project bringing together the sciences, law, engineering, and the social sciences to collaborate on this important effort.
Adapt VA is a project of the CCRFR described above and provides a wide range of information for homeowners, businesses and everyone who lives, works, and recreates in coastal Virginia or has an interest in our future. The portal provides a one-stop shop of evidence-based planning tools and resources to respond to changing climate conditions.
Fourth National Climate Assessment
On November 23, 2018, the Fourth National Climate Assessment was released by the federal government. This work is a collaboration of 13 different federal departments and is very comprehensive. The entire report is available at this link, but may be a little over-whelming. On the home page you will see a link to the Summary Findings which is an excellent overview. You may also want to go to the individual chapters and read Chapter 19 on the Southeast.