Virginia SB 320 Community Flood Preparedness Fund

In 2020, Virginia created the Virginia Community Flood Preparedness Fund (Virginia Code §§ 10.1-603.24 and 10.1-603.25). Through this law, the state established a low-interest revolving loan fund to help local governments and communities adapt to increasing coastal and inland flooding from multiple, different sources, including sea-level rise and precipitation. The purpose of the fund is to enhance the state’s overall coastal resilience by funding flood prevention and mitigation projects, prioritizing projects in low-income areas and that are designed with nature-based solutions. Virginia’s sustainable funding model can serve as an example to support climate adaptation projects in other states and communities. This law amended a previous, narrower version of the law, called the Virginia Shoreline Resiliency Fund (Virginia Code § 10.1-603.25), which was more limited in scope and geographic eligibility. The earlier version of the fund also never received appropriations.

The state anticipates approximately $45 million annually will be available for the fund, which will go to low-interest loans and grants for flood relief projects that prioritize natural solutions to flood risk reduction. Revenue will come primarily from carbon auctions generated through the state’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). Additional sources of revenue can also support the fund including money appropriated by the Virginia General Assembly, federal funding, the repayment of local government loans made through the fund, and "any other sums designated for deposit to the Fund from any source, public or private."

The fund can be used to support a variety of flood prevention and mitigation activities. Local governments can draw on the fund to implement capital projects like constructing hazard mitigation projects and acquiring land, or implement higher land-use standards that reduce or mitigate damage from coastal or riverine flooding. Local government can also use the fund to prepare a “flood prevention or protection study" defined as a “hydraulic or hydrologic study of a flood plain with historic and predicted floods, the assessment of flood risk, and the development of strategies to prevent or mitigate damage from coastal or riverine flooding.” Through the law, the state prioritizes loans for “low-income geographic areas.”1 The law mandates that a minimum of 25 percent of disbursed annual funds must go to these areas. Also, localities using fund money for projects in low-income geographic areas are authorized to forgive the principal on the loans for those projects. The state also prioritizes the award of projects that use nature-based solutions, compared to hard or “grey” techniques, to reduce flood risk. 

The 2016 Virginia Shoreline Resiliency Fund, an earlier version of this fund, was narrower in scope and eligibility, and also never received appropriations. This updated version of the law provides greater opportunities to implement the fund because of the RGGI allocations and also emphasizes the needs for loans to address flooding in low-income areas. The fund is now administered by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation - rather than the Department of Emergency Management, as originally structured. Under the law, the Department of Conservation and Recreation, in consultation with the Special Assistant to the Governor for Coastal Adaptation and Protection, is tasked with establishing guidelines for fund distribution and prioritization, including for loans and grants that support flood mitigation studies “of statewide or regional significance.”

 

Publication Date: April 22, 2020

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  • State of Virginia

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