Framing Long Term Redevelopment Strategies for Virginia’s Coastal Communities

The resilience of Virginia’s coastal cities, towns and villages is threatened by subsidence, increased rainfall intensity, storm surges and rising seas. 

However, many developments are built over drained and filled creek and wetland areas. These are regularly affected by repeated flooding and some will become permanently wet, a new landscape of standing water. Municipalities are focusing on short-term measures such as raising the level of dwellings and roads. In the long term, such strategies will do little to enhance the resilience of these coastal communities. Decommissioning, relocation, and the replacement of former developed areas will have to be part of the plan in some areas. Asking property owners to willingly abandon their properties and replacing the assets elsewhere comes with great political risk, and economic costs however. This ERI sponsored project team worked with the City of Portsmouth Virginia to consider by the technical and social aspects of such coastal flooding management scenarios. The project began in 2016 by developing a preparatory framework of communication and capacity building, to enable the community to negotiate with state and regional actors to achieve a transition from risk to resilience. The community was then supported by the research team as it worked to produce planning and redevelopment scenarios supported by engineering and ecological data. A catalogue of living shoreline concepts, were collaboratively developed to mediate future flooding. The group’s work was supported by case studies to help communicate the ecological and economic value they were expected to produce.