About the Executive Order
Governor Northam signed Executive Order 45, on November 14, creating the Virginia Flood Risk Management Standard.
A first of its kind for any state, the Virginia Flood Risk Management Standard will improve flood protection in coastal areas by discouraging building in floodplains and incorporating sea level rise projections that have been developed based on the best available science and adopted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In addition, Executive Order 45 establishes a “freeboard” standard that increases protection of buildings in both coastal and riverine floodplains by requiring that they be built to certain elevation standards that will protect them from flooding.
This initiative is the result of Executive Order 24, signed in November 2018 that is among the most comprehensive actions undertaken by any state to improve resilience and protect people and property from natural catastrophes. EO 24 required the issuance of state-wide or regional freeboard and sea-level rise projections. The Virginia Flood Risk Management Standard satisfies those requirements by setting standards for coastal and riverine flood prone areas. Flood prone areas includes sea level rise inundation areas as well 100 and 500 year floodplains as mapped by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Virginia Flood Risk Management Standard for State Owned Buildings
Flooding remains the most common and costly natural disaster in Virginia and the United States. With more than 100,000 miles of streams and rivers, as well as 10,000 miles of estuarine and coastal shoreline, Virginia’s flood risk is statewide. It comes in many forms, and is increasing due to climate change driven impacts including sea level rise and more frequent and intense weather events. In 2018, Virginia experienced seven federally declared disasters, with a total cost of approximately $1.6 billion.
- Investing in preparedness and resilience is imperative to reduce flood risk and that is why Governor Northam signed EO45, creating the Virginia Flood Risk Management Standard (VFRMS).
- The VFRMS is the strongest flooding elevation standard in the nation, setting a minimum first floor elevation, or freeboard, above the projected base-flood height.
- Per Executive Order 45, State-owned buildings are not allowed to be constructed within flood-prone areas without a variance. While the VFRMS sets a freeboard standard for these areas, the Commonwealth will avoid building in flood-prone areas whenever possible.
- The VFRMS is the first such standard in the nation to incorporate future sea level rise projections. For sea level rise inundation areas of the Commonwealth, future sea level rise projections will be added to the freeboard standard.
- Executive Order 24, Increasing Virginia’s Resilience to Sea Level Rise and Natural Hazards, signed by Governor Northam on November 2, 2018, required the issuance of state-wide or regional freeboard and sea-level rise projections. The VFRMS satisfies those requirements by setting standards for the coastal and riverine flood prone areas, which include sea level rise inundation areas and the 100 year and 500 year floodplains, as mapped by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
- The freeboard standards set by the VFRMS are informed by formal recommendations from experts at Old Dominium University and the Commonwealth Center for Recurrent Flooding Resiliency. The sea level rise projections used in the VFRMS are informed by experts at the Center for Coastal Resources Management at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.
- The VFRMS will apply to all state-owned buildings authorized on or after January 1, 2021.
- The VFRMS will ensure that projects built today are better sited and better designed to handle a greater risk of flooding in the future. This standard will reduce damages caused by floods and hurricanes and will help protect the Commonwealth against the increased flood risk that comes with sea level rise and climate change.
- Research shows that it pays to prepare before disaster strikes. Recent analysis from the National Institute of Building Sciences demonstrates that every $1 invested in pre-disaster mitigation saves society $5 for riverine flooding and $7 for coastal flooding.
- EO 45 also creates a workgroup establish state-level NFIP complaint requirements for all development activities by state agencies on state-owned property. The VFRMS will become part of those requirements.
 National Institute of Building Sciences, Mitigation Saves: Federal Grants Provide $6 Benefit for Each $1 Invested, 2018, http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.nibs.org/resource/resmgr/docs/MS_FactSheets_Set.pdf.
Detailed Requirements Chart
Virginia Flood Risk Management Standards for New State-Owned Buildings to Bolster Resilience and Ensure National Flood Insurance Program Compliance
- The Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) may also be referred to as the 1% annual chance floodplain or the 100-year floodplain, as identified on the effective Flood Insurance Rate Map and Flood Insurance Study. This includes the following flood zones: A, AO, AH, AE, A99, AR, AR/AE, AR/AO, AR/AH, AR/A, VO, VE, or V.
- The Shaded X Zone may also be referred to as the 0.2% annual chance floodplain or the 500- year floodplain, as identified on the effective Flood Insurance Rate Map and Flood Insurance Study.
- The Sea Level Rise (SLR) Inundation Area is based on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Intermediate-High scenario curve for 2100, last updated in 2017, and is intended to denote the maximum inland boundary of anticipated sea level rise.
Background & Supporting Materials
EO 24 DCR Report (2018)- Pursuant to Executive Order 24
Executive Order 24, Section 2 C. of the Order directed the Department of Conservation and Recreation, in coordination with the Commonwealth’s Chief Resilience Officer, Secretary Matthew J. Strickler, to preform a comprehensive review of Title 10, Chapter 6 (Flood Protection and Dam Safety) of the Code of Virginia and make recommendations that would strengthen Virginia’s ability to protect life and property from flooding by natural and man-made causes.
This report, included in EO 45, offers extensive recommendations that, if fully implemented, will help drive future resilience initiatives by the Commonwealth, as well as make Virginia safer and more resilient from the undeniable changes in climate that have already begun to affect our ability to protect our land, infrastructure, businesses and citizens.
Executive Order 24, Sections 1 C. Unified Sea Level Rise Projection for State-Owned Buildings and D. Freeboard Standard for State-Owned Buildings, required the Commonwealth to consult with academic institutions in the state to ensure our flood management standards were based on the best available science.
These reports were used to inform the recommendations of EO 45 and further policy decision to ensure a practical and implementable standard.
Recommendations for Freeboard Standards for State-Owned Buildings in the Commonwealth of Virginia