Coastal Adaptation & Resilience Master Plan
The Need for Coastal Resilience
Coastal Virginia faces an existential threat from rising waters caused by unabated human-produced carbon emissions and the climate changes they inflict. High rates of land subsidence, combined with sea level rise, means Virginia is experiencing one of the highest rates of relative sea level rise in the United States. More intense hurricanes and nor’easters, more frequent heavy rainfall events and increased frequency of tidal flooding from sea level rise will combine to threaten the millions of Virginian’s who call the coastal region home. These hazards to our unique coast present an opportunity for Virginia to lead in coastal resilience, leveraging economic development opportunities associated with adaptation and mitigation, using natural and nature based solutions for additional natural resource benefits whenever feasible, and advancing expertise at the Commonwealth Center for Recurrent Flooding Resiliency (CCRFR). The Secretary defines resilience as “the ability of natural and built coastal environments to WITHSTAND AND recover from hazardous events such as extreme weather, storm surge, and recurrent flooding."
Executive Order 24: Increasing Virginia’s Resilience To Sea Level Rise And Natural Hazards
Sea level rise, land subsidence, higher average temperatures, more frequent and intense weather events, severe drought, and increased development, have increased risk and will continue to increase and exacerbate risk from natural hazards across the Commonwealth of Virginia. The number of federally declared disasters has steadily increased nationally and in Virginia. The number has experienced a 250 percent increase in federally declared disasters over the past 20 years, including declarations for flooding, hurricanes, severe storms, and wildfire.
The best available science predicts that this trend will continue to worsen. A recent report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states that the world is likely to experience dramatic increases in coastal flooding and severe weather events. Additional studies show that water levels in the Hampton Roads region are now 18 inches higher than they were a century ago, and that they are expected to gain up to five more feet, while the land sinks as much as 7.5 inches, by 2100. That combined rise is faster than anywhere else on the East Coast. The most recent National Climate Assessment reported that the intensity, frequency, and duration of North Atlantic hurricanes, as well as the frequency of the strongest hurricanes, have all increased.
This increase in extreme weather events and natural disasters will continue to have a profound impact on Virginia. It threatens public health and safety, our environment and natural resources, and the economic wellbeing of the Commonwealth, including our ports, military installations, transportation infrastructure, tourism assets, farms, and forests. We must act now to protect lives and property from multiple threats and reduce taxpayer exposure through fiscally responsible planning.
Coastal Adaptation & Resilience Master Plan
The Commonwealth of Virginia has a responsibility to assist local governments in reducing flood risk through planning and implementing large scale flood protection and adaptation initiatives. The Chief Resilience Officer, with the assistance of the Special Assistant to the Governor for Coastal Adaptation and Protection, shall create and implement a Coastal Resilience Master Plan for coastal Virginia to reduce the impacts of tidal and storm surge flooding.
Virginia Flood Freeboard Standard
Virginia must ensure the resilience of state-owned buildings by setting a minimum freeboard standard for state owned buildings. The Chief Resilience Officer shall collaboratively work within state government and with assistance from regional, state, and national experts, and stakeholders, to issue, within 180 days from issuance of this Order, a regional or statewide freeboard 3 standard. The standard shall apply to all projects beginning initial design for state-owned buildings beginning on or after January 1, 2020. This standard shall apply to new construction and not renovations to existing state buildings and be applied barring extenuating circumstances as determined by the Chief Resilience Officer. In creating this standard, the Chief Resilience Officer shall consult with: the Secretary of Administration, the Secretary of Commerce and Trade, the Secretary of Finance, the Secretary of Transportation, and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.