VIMS Recurrent Flooding Study for Tidewater Virginia

In March 2012, the Virginia Legislature passed House Joint Resolution No. 50, which directed the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) to study the impacts of recurrent flooding in Tidewater and the Eastern Shore, and to identify adaptation strategies. The Recurrent Flooding Study makes projections for recurrent flooding due to sea-level rise, storm surge, and heavy rainfall, addressing all localities in Virginia's coastal zone.

The report recommends immediate initiation of comprehensive and coordinated planning efforts to avoid catastrophic flooding related to sea-level rise, noting that it takes 20-30 years to effectively plan and implement many of the necessary adaptation strategies. It is predicted 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 saturation with a "moderate" level of sea-level rise of 1.5 feet, combined with a 3-foot storm surge.  

The report provides an overview of available adaptation strategies, reviews their implementation around the world, and identifies strategies appropriate for Virginia. The strategies fall into three broad categories: management/retreat, accommodation, and protection. In each category, a range of regulatory, incentive based, and direct government interventions are discussed and evaluated, with pro and con lists provided for each option. The study also identifies limits on state and local legal authorities to implement adaptation measures and suggests legislative approaches to provide additional authorities and remove barriers.  

The report recommends that 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. A comprehensive strategy for addressing recurrent flooding issues throughout the region is suggested. The overall strategy would include prioritization of areas for flood management action based on risk, assessment of implementation feasibility of the strategies identified, and a cost-benefit analysis.

A detailed description of the stakeholder process that produced the recommendations is included in the report.


Publication Date: January 14, 2013

Authors or Affiliated Users:

  • Molly Mitchell
  • Carl Hershner
  • Julie Herman
  • Dan Schatt
  • Pam Mason
  • Emily Eggington

Related Organizations:


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Assessment
  • Policy analysis/recommendations

States Affected:


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