The Challenge of Mitigating Virginia’s Flooding and Sea Level Rise Impacts

This report outlines potential flood risk within Hampton Roads, Virginia, finding nearly $431,000,000 in pending costs to fix flood-damaged structures. The study also found that, at current rates of hazard mitigation payments from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), it would take between 78-188 years to clear a backlog of flood-damaged property needs. Given this situation, Wetlands Watch suggests using revolving loan funds to meet the sea level rise adaptation needs in coastal Virginia.

In their loss estimation, the report draws on FEMA data related to “repetitive loss” properties and data from local floodplain managers. They found that there are just under 3000 repetitive loss properties in the Chesapeake, Hampton, Portsmouth, Norfolk, and Virginia Beach area. The financial damage and estimated waiting times to mitigate risks to repetitive loss properties are based on a number of assumptions and are meant to be preliminary findings. However, they suggest that unless remedied, this situation could lead to property owners losing their properties, and municipalities seeing their property tax base decline.

The report suggests establishing revolving loan funds to meet the need. Revolving loan funds are gap financing measures that provide a self-replenishing pool of money by utilizing interest and principal payments on old loans to issue new ones. There are several other revolving loan funds in Virginia which have been established to meet public goals, including loans for drinking water, airports, dam safety, and land conservation - and a sea level rise/flood mitigation fund could follow those examples. In addition, the report suggests creating private financing structures in the form of redevelopment loans or mitigation mortgages similar to those used for energy efficiency improvements. Strong co-benefits are found, in that financing these needs could create over 9,200 jobs in construction and other industries.

Publication Date: November 2014

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