‘It’s getting worse’: Virginia Beach’s plan to mitigate sea level rise

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - The sea level in Virginia Beach is rising faster than it can be controlled.

The challenge now is adapting to the changing landscape.

Engineers have been working on solutions for about five years, and on Thursday night they presented a draft of their final report to the community.

They report that over the last 50 years, sea level has risen almost one foot.

Investing nearly $4 million and working with Dewberry over the last 18 months, Public Works Engineering has been conducting studies and developing long-term plans to combat the growing risks and projected effects of sea level rise throughout the city.

CJ Bodnar, the Technical Services Engineer for Public Works, said they are working on, "natural and nature-based green solutions, engineered solutions, how to adapt individual homes to be able to make them more resilient to sea level rise."

The adaptation plan is broken down into four layers:

  • Natural mitigation
  • Engineered defenses
  • Adapted structures
  • Prepared communities

The main takeaways from the final report are using natural and man-made approaches to build barriers, raise homes and improve flood mitigation.

During the five years of research, they looked at all four watersheds: The Oceanfront, Southern Shores, the Elizabeth River and the Lynnhaven Inlet.

"[We've also looked] at putting a gate across the Lynnhaven Inlet at the Lesner Bridge to be able to keep the tidal waters from being able to come into the Lynnhaven," Bodnar said.

Virginia Beach resident Robert Elms was at Thursday's meeting. He has lived in the city for the past 43 years and has seen quite a bit of flooding.

"Increased rain; you know the water's getting higher. It is getting worse, I'll admit that," he said. "Our feet aren't wet yet, but here in probably about 10 or 15 years everybody's going to have to be concerned."

The city wanted to know how people have been affected by flooding. In a survey, 51% of people said they have suffered property damage or a loss due to flooding, while 64% of people said they feel personally vulnerable to the impacts of flooding. Eighty-nine percent of people report having to change their normal driving routes to work, school or other activities due to flooding.

"Well, when you have an elevation in the City of Virginia Beach about four and a half, four and a half feet of sea level rise puts a lot of things underwater," Bodnar said.

However, the mitigation methods are designed to keep you and your things safe and dry.

There are upcoming meetings that the public can attend to learn more and voice their opinions:

Monday, February 3

  • Virginia Beach Middle School
  • 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Wednesday, February 5

  • Creeds Elementary School
  • 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Wednesday, February 12

  • Kellam High School
  • 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Saturday, February 15

  • Cox High School
  • 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.

Public comment period will be open until the end of the month. From there, engineers will finalize the report, take it to the planning commission and then present it to council. They hope that by spring, council will adopt it as part of the city's comprehensive plan.

Click here to see the entire report.

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