Virginia Coastal Resilience Master Planning Framework

In October 2020, the Commonwealth of Virginia published the Virginia Coastal Resilience Master Planning Framework (Framework), which presents the Commonwealth's strategy for implementing coastal protection and adaptation measures to increase the flood resilience of coastal communities and economies. The Framework presents the core principles of the Commonwealth's approach to coastal adaptation and protection and describes how Virginia will develop and implement its first Coastal Resilience Master Plan (Master Plan) by the end of 2021. Specifically, the Framework identifies the goals and guiding principles that will inform the development of the Master Plan, details ongoing state and federal efforts that support coastal adaptation, and presents the scientific, legal, and socioeconomic foundations for the future Master Plan. Through the Framework and the Master Plan, Virginia aims to improve the Commonwealth's resilience and adaptability to sea-level rise, increased high tide flooding, and the more frequent and intense storms resulting from climate change. 

The Framework was developed pursuant to Executive Order 24 (2018), "Increasing Virginia's Resilience to Sea Level Rise and Natural Hazards" (EO). Among other resilience initiatives, the EO directed the Commonwealth to develop and implement a Coastal Resilience Master Plan to reduce the impacts of storm surge and tidal flooding in coastal Virginia. The Framework is the predecessor to the Master Plan, and efforts to implement the Framework will drive the development of the full, project-focused Master Plan. The Framework consists of seven chapters, described below.

Chapter One outlines the goals and principles guiding the development of the Master Plan and identifies action items necessary to support the development of the Master Plan. The goals include identifying priority resilience-building projects, instituting an equitable strategy for financing the Master Plan, incorporating climate change projections into coastal planning and decisionmaking, and achieving intergovernmental coordination of coastal adaptation and protection initiatives. Guiding principles include making decisions according to the best available science, enhancing equity through adaptation initiatives, utilizing green infrastructure, planning at the regional scale, and employing the most cost-effective adaptation solutions.   

Chapter Two describes the social and economic vulnerabilities of Virginia's coastal communities and makes the case for a state-level solution. Virginia has one of the highest sea-level rise rates in the country, and over 70 percent of Virginia's population lives in the coastal region. Further, coastal industries employ thousands of Virginians and contribute one billion dollars annually to Virginia's economy. 

Chapter Three explains the science underlying the climate change-related threats to Virginia's coast and identifies governmental and academic institutions producing science and data that support responsible decisionmaking. Specifically, the chapter describes how climate change contributes to sea-level rise in Virginia and presents an assessment of Virginians' social and economic vulnerability to climate change impacts.

Chapter Four explains that Virginia will be divided into four coastal regions1 for purposes of implementing the Master Plan. The Framework divides the coast into four regions because different portions of Virginia's coast face different hazards. The chapter describes these different challenges and resilience efforts at the local and regional levels to address the challenges. 

Chapter Five presents state and federal programs underway to protect and adapt Virginia's coast to climate change. While supporting these initiatives, the Framework describes the importance of coordinating activities at the state level to maximize their impact and ensure that coastal resilience efforts are cost-effective and that no measures are duplicated. 

Chapter Six describes the organization, research, and planning actions that must occur prior to finalizing the Master Plan. The Framework identifies three actions that must occur immediately: creating a Technical Advisory Committee to assist with the development of the Master Plan, utilizing the professional coastal planning expertise of the Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program to support the Technical Advisory Committee, and engaging the community through roundtables. The Framework also identifies other necessary, but less urgent, actions for developing the Master Plan. 

Chapter Seven identifies several potential funding sources for implementing the framework. Potential federal funding sources through the Department of Defense and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association are discussed, in addition to potential state and local funding sources. Notably, the Virginia Community Flood Preparedness Fund is identified as a state-level funding source. The state is also considering environmental impact, resilience, and catastrophe bonds, tax increment financing, and private-public partnerships.

The Framework ends with several appendices. The appendices include documents that predict flooding risk in Virginia, recommend actions to calculate and mitigate flood risk, and describe public and private programs to reduce Virginia's flood risk and increase its resilience.

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  • State of Virginia

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