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Fifth Meeting of the Hampton Roads Sea Level Rise/Flooding Adaptation Forum

Michelle Covi

The fifth meeting of the Hampton Roads Sea Level Rise/ Flooding Adaptation forum took place on March 28, 2014. Over 70 people attended the meeting at ODU's Ted Constant Convocation Center. The Forum is a continuing series of meetings bringing together stakeholders in the Hampton Roads region to discuss solutions and best practices for adapting to sea level rise and increased flooding. This project is an on-going collaboration among Virginia Sea Grant, Old Dominion University and the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission.

Many of the attendees to the fifth meeting were new to the forum, drawn by the topic of floodplain management. FEMA Region 3 representative Robin Danforth presented information about the on-going Coastal Flood Study that includes Hampton Roads. She demonstrated how the new coastal hazards zones are calculated and directed the audience to the new property locator tool that is available for residents to examine any proposed changes to their flood zone designation.

Following Ms. Danforth's presentation, a panel of local municipal staff, Whitney McNamara from Virginia Beach, Brian Swets from Chesapeake, and Robert Tajan from Norfolk, shared their experiences with floodplain management at the local level. Ms. McNamara gave an overview of the process of updating the Virginia Beach floodplain ordinance in 2013 and new special restrictions, freeboard levels and stand-alone ordinance. Robert Tajan explained the circumstances under which Norfolk's new 3 foot freeboard building code was adopted and the problems updating an ordinance in a city that is essential built-out. Brian Swets described Chesapeake's new flood ordinance and their experience in applying for credits through the Community Rating System (CRS).

CRS was explored in more depth by Shannon Hurst of Wetlands Watch, who summarized the changes in flood insurance laws with the Biggert-Waters, then Grimm-Waters acts. Ms. Hurst's analysis of the number of coastal Virginia communities are participating in CRS and the potential economic, safety and environmental benefits stimulated a lively discussion. Municipalities with experience of CRS explained some of the hidden costs of participation and difficulties working with a program currently undergoing change. Some suggestions, such as CRS regional workgroups, were proposed.

The fifth adaptation forum wrapped up with updates and announcements from Jim Reddick, about the Secure Commonwealth Sub-panel on Recurrent Flooding, from Ray Toll about the TechSurge event in June and from Michelle Covi about the development of the Mitigation and Adaptation Research Institute (MARI) at ODU.

To view the agenda and slide presentations see here.

About seventy participants contributed to the discussions.
Shannon Hulst, Wetlands Watch, presented a Community Rating System.
Ben McFarlane, Hampton Roads Planning District Commission (HRPDC), and Jim Redick, City of Norfolk, presented ideas on moving forward and updated to participants on the Recurrent Flooding Sub-Panel and the HRPDC.