Recommendations to the Secure Commonwealth Panel on the Issue of Sea Level Rise and Recurrent Flooding in Coastal Virginia

From the Recurrent Flooding Sub-Panel of Virginia’s Secure Commonwealth Panel, this draft report provides recommendations on actions Virginia can take to prepare for sea level rise and increased flooding as caused by climate change. This comprehensive report also offers analysis of which tools, authorities, initiatives and resources already exist, what actions can be taken, and how to coordinate it all into a united effort to adapt to these impacts.

A clear and direct message opens the Introduction to this report: “Sea Level Rise is real. It is as real a threat as all other threats for which Virginia plans. Natural and human‐caused incidents - from terrorism to tornados to hurricanes - all have a level of risk, probability and impact. Flooding and Sea Level Rise are the most probable as they are already occurring.”

The document builds on the recommendations posed by the College of William and Mary’s Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) in its 2012 General Assembly chartered report “Recurrent Flooding Study for Tidewater Virginia.” The study indicates that Virginia can expect a minimum sea level rise of 1.5 feet over the next two to five decades, with a three foot height of storm surge. 

The recommendations provided are extensively detailed – with background data, and complete processes for accomplishing the strategy, along with suggested agency partners and funding sources. Of the many strategic recommendations, a select few examples are to:

- Appoint a “resilience coordinator” to focus entirely on flooding
- Require property owners to reveal flood risks before sales
- Create a Four Year “Incident Action Plan” or “Flood Resilience Action Plan” with specific goals and objectives to be adopted by Executive Order or General Assembly.
- Establish a fund to assist localities and regions meet their match requirements, and otherwise assist them with the costs of adaptation planning

The Secure Commonwealth Panel is an advisory board in the executive branch of the government of Virginia, and advises and issues recommendations to Governor Terry McAuliffe on the state’s emergency management and preparedness. The Secure Commonwealth Panel will operate adjacently to a climate-change commission created by Governor McAuliffe.

Publication Date: September 5, 2014

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