Sue Kriebel, Sea Level Wise Project Manager, Virginia Beach Public Works Stormwater Engineering Center
Kristina Searles, Civil Engineer II, Virginia Beach Public Works Stormwater Engineering Center
Sea level rise in Virginia Beach is an undisputed fact. The Hampton Roads region is experiencing the highest rate of sea level rise on the east coast. In the last 50-years, sea levels have risen by almost one foot. As a result, Virginia Beach residents have observed higher water levels and experienced more regular flood events, even on sunny days. Higher sea levels and heavier rainfall events are already impacting the City’s low-lying lands, buildings and infrastructure. Looking forward, sea levels will continue to rise at an even faster rate. They are projected to increase by another 1 to 4.5-feet over the next 80 years. With such stark projections, Virginia Beach is among the top ten cities in the country at risk from sea level rise. It is also ranked 19th in the world for assets exposed to coastal flooding by the 2070s. In 2015, Virginia Beach launched the Comprehensive Sea Level Rise and Recurrent Flooding Capital Improvement Program, which is now known as Sea Level Wise. This effort aims to produce information and strategies that enable Virginia Beach to establish long-term resilience to sea level rise and associated recurrent flooding. Over the past 5 years, the Sea Level Wise program has engaged technical experts, community participants and regional partners to advance adaptation efforts. Virginia Beach recognizes that no single strategy will address the problem. As such, the City combined a variety of approaches in an Adaptation Framework to prepare for the future. The Adaptation Framework consists of four complimentary themes: Natural Mitigations, Engineered Defenses, Adapted Structures and Community Engagement. Each of theses themes have a specific approach to flood risk management and are designed to support each other, integrating structural and non-structural measures to ensure comprehensive flood protection across a range of environmental conditions. The results of this effort are presented in the Sea Level Wise Adaptation Strategy Report. This Adaptation Strategy outlines a proactive, long-term approach to enable the City of Virginia Beach to adapt to changing environmental conditions. Gradual implementation of the Strategy elements will improve the City’s resilience to the flood conditions of both today and tomorrow. In turn, this will maintain and improve the quality of life for residents and ensure a vibrant future for the City of Virginia Beach.