Public Meetings Set to Explore Ways to Plan for Sea Level Rise in Virginia Beach

February 05, 2011

February 4, 2011 — Hampton Roads' economy and its citizens' property are vulnerable to sea level rise and natural coastal disasters.

The threat is real. By 2100, the projected relative sea level rise in the Chesapeake Bay region is 2.3 to 5.2 feet, which scientists attribute to a combination of global oceans rising and the southeastern Virginia region subsiding. Virginia Beach could lose about 45,000 acres. The Virginia Beach-Norfolk Metropolitan Statistical Area ranks 10th in the world in the value of assets exposed to increased flooding from relative level sea rise, and Hampton Roads is rated second to New Orleans as the most vulnerable area relative to sea level rise in the U.S.

While planning agencies have begun to recognize the urgency of the situation, many policymakers and citizens have questions about what sea level rise means for the community and what should be done about it.

Community members, local and regional planners and decision-makers will have an opportunity to learn more at Virginia Beach Sea Level Rise Listening Sessions on March 30 and 31. The project is designed to solicit information from the community while also helping residents gain an understanding of the complex topic.

The University of Virginia's Institute for Environmental Negotiation is partnering with the Wetlands Watch, Hampton Roads Planning District Commission, the City of Virginia Beach and Old Dominion University to hold four sessions over two days to share information and ideas about next steps in planning to address the issues and ensure that Virginia's coastal communities are prepared for sea level rise.

Sessions are scheduled for:

• March 30

1 to 4 p.m. at the Virginia Aquarium

5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Red Mill Elementary on Sandbridge Road.

• March 31

8:30 to 11:30 a.m. at the Meyera E. Oberndorf Central Library on Virginia Beach Boulevard.

1 to 5 p.m. at the Bayside Recreation Center

Participants are encouraged to register at the project website. Walk-ins are welcome. Those not able to attend any of the sessions may complete a community survey at the project website.

Individual participants will have the opportunity to communicate concerns and expand their knowledge about sea level rise, the need for preparedness and the range of appropriate investment decisions. The community will benefit as part of a process toward developing responses and planning for resilience.

Results of a participant survey and other reporting data will inform an analysis of the listening sessions as a model process that may be adapted by other coastal communities. Results from the sessions may provide valuable input to the work on the Virginia Beach Sustainability Plan, anticipated to begin later in 2011.

The sessions are funded by Virginia Sea Grant at Virginia Institute of Marine Science, the Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program, West Wind Foundation and Virginia Environmental Endowment.

As part of the project, two U.Va. School of Architecture classes will work during the spring semester to plan and design solutions to address the issues.

A graduate planning applications course, taught by Tim Beatley, Teresa Heinz Professor of Sustainable Communities, will focus on identifying a range of planning tools, and Kristina Hill, associate professor and chair of landscape architecture, will lead graduate students to develop a range of landscape design solutions. Their research will be available to coastal communities for addressing sea level rise, using Virginia Beach and the Hampton Roads region as the focus of investigation and analysis.

For information about the project click here or contact a member of the project team: Melissa Keywood, U.Va. Institute for Environmental Negotiation, 434-924-0285; Skip Stiles, Wetlands Watch, 757-623-4835; Ben McFarlane, Hampton Roads Planning District Commission, 757-420-8300; Cathy Lewis, Old Dominion University, 757-377-1914; or Clay Bernick, City of Virginia Beach.

— By Jane Ford

Media Contact

Jane Ford

Senior News Officer U.Va. Media Relations