Virginia is taking bold climate action to address flood risk across the state

Climate change poses a significant threat to Virginia’s communities, infrastructure and economy. The state has the highest rates of sea level rise on the Atlantic seaboard with more than 34,000 buildings and 534 square miles of coastal land at risk of flooding by 2060, while more intense rainfall is also increasing flood risk statewide. 

Virginia’s state leadership is moving diligently to mitigate current and future flood threats by funding and implementing risk reduction and resilience projects across the commonwealth. 

Here’s how the state is tackling its flood risk problem with thoughtful planning and long-term funding. 

A statewide fund for flood preparedness nets millions 

In 2020, Virginia joined the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) — a multi-state carbon emissions cap-and-invest program for the electricity sector — and tied 45% of proceeds to the statewide Community Flood Preparedness Fund.  

This fund will provide capacity building and project implementation grants to localities that experience recurrent flooding across Virginia. Importantly, 25% of funding is set aside for low-income communities. 

Last week, the second RGGI auction netted over $20 million for the fund, bringing the total pot to over $40 million with two more auctions scheduled in 2021. The fund is projected to generate upwards of $800 million over the course of the next decade for statewide flood resilience — a down payment on what Virginia will need to invest. And, importantly, Virginia can leverage this money with other funding sources to meet the cost-sharing requirements of larger federal programs, multiplying the impact. 

Localities can now access millions in resilience grants 

Coinciding with these newly available dollars, the Department of Conservation and Recreation opened the first call for applications for $18 million in grants from the Community Flood Preparedness Fund.  

Because a resilience plan is required for future project funding, now is the time for localities to apply for capacity building grants to develop and update their local plans. Low-income communities are eligible for additional support to ensure technical assistance is available for the communities that need it the most. 

Great Egret taking off. Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.

The fund prioritizes resilience plans and projects that invest in nature-based solutions, such as wetland and floodplain restoration, retention ponds and living shorelines. 

Local governments can apply until Sept. 3, and there will be two additional rounds before February 2022. Because this is a statewide pool for both coastal and inland communities facing recurrent flooding, all localities should consider preparing applications now to take advantage of this and future rounds. 

A forthcoming statewide plan to guide coastal resilience investments 

At the state level, Virginia leaders are moving forward with the development of a Coastal Resilience Master Plan to guide investments in projects that build flood resilience for coastal communities.  

In October 2020, Virginia released a Coastal Resilience Master Planning Framework to inform the development of the master plan set to be released this fall. In addition, the state and its consulting team will conduct public outreach and stakeholder meetings this summer to inform development of the plan. 

When complete, the Coastal Resilience Master Plan will include a framework for identifying and prioritizing potential projects based on the best available science. Other states with coastal master plans, like Louisiana and Texas, revise their plans on a regular schedule with updated modeling and data, and Virginia should do the same.   

Virginia is taking bold climate action to address flood risk across the state Click To Tweet

While RGGI proceeds in the Community Flood Preparedness Fund will be a primary funding source for the master plan, they won’t provide enough resources to fully implement the plan. Already, multiple localities across Virginia have identified billions of dollars in flood resilience needs. To address this gap, the plan will include a strategy to identify innovative funding solutions and additional financial resources to invest in flood resilience priorities.  

The Community Preparedness Flood Fund provides a unique opportunity to build local capacity and implement flood risk reduction projects across the commonwealth. With this funding source in place and an expected statewide coastal resilience plan, Virginia has a solid foundation from which to invest in solutions that can make all communities across the commonwealth more resilient to our growing flood risk.  

To learn more about the Community Flood Preparedness Fund, attend one of the summer Q&A sessions being hosted by the Department of Conservation and Recreation: June 15July 15Aug. 13. Virginians living in an area of flood risk should contact their local elected officials and encourage them to take advantage of this important funding opportunity. 

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