Above: The Honorable Rob Wittman, (R-VA) Congressman. Photo credit VASG/Ian Vorster
by Virginia Coastal Policy Center Correspondent Deborah Kornblut
The Virginia Coastal Policy Center recently hosted its Fifth Annual Conference, which addressed the impacts of sea level rise in the Hampton Roads area, and the broader implications of sea level rise on military efforts and installations. Segmented into four panels with presentations on topics like resiliency, the conference progressed from broader discussions about sea level rise to a conclusion centered on collaborative solutions.
The first panel explained the current state of the Department of Defense’s (DoD) resiliency programs. Moderated by Colonel Paul Olsen (Army Corps of Engineers), speakers in this panel included Shana Udvardy (Union of Concerned Scientists), Captain George Bonner (Coast Guard), Colonel Paul Roege (Army), and Jennifer Armstrong (Senate Committee on Appropriations). Relying on climate scenarios for background information, discussion included the importance of changing the DoD’s approach towards preventative measures, the current state of Coast Guard efforts, and sources of funding for DoD projects.
The second panel concentrated on the impact of sea level rise on national security and policy issues. Rear Admiral Ann Phillips (Navy) moderated the panel while Brigadier General Bob Barnes (Army), Maureen Sullivan (Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Environment, Safety, and Occupational Health), and Rear Admiral David Titley (Navy) presented. From discourse on aligning the Secretary’s priorities with sea level rise implications, to the acceleration of national security threats due to the simultaneous and diverse impacts of sea level rise, the panel asserted the significance of partnering with local communities and states to formulate solutions.
Mid-way through the conference, Representative Rob Wittman (R-VA) also presented, emphasizing how conditions in Virginia reflect on the country’s military as a whole. He called for contingency plans, a long-term focus, and overall readiness for sea level rise. Effective strategies, such as wetland preservation would be implemented to incorporate various levels of government, and to prioritize regionally beneficial investments.
Incorporating some optimism, the third panel considered opportunities presented by recurrent flooding. The Honorable Chris Stolle moderated while Commander Kathy Purdy Owens (Naval Reserves), Paul Robinson (RISE Resilience Innovations), Kit Chope (Port of Virginia), and Paul Battaglia (Clark Nexsen) spoke. Under appropriate conditions, commercial real estate markets and shipping ports could take advantage of sea level rise by predicting sea level rise impacts and strategically placing projects into areas where the impact would be beneficial for the organization. Through initiatives, such as the Resilience Fellowship, the Hampton Roads area could also serve as a site for experimentation and innovation.
The final panel was dedicated to the crucial role of collaborative solutions in addressing sea level rise. Moderated by Rear Admiral Craig Quigley (Navy) with Colonel Jason Kelley (Army Corps of Engineers), Captain Doug Beaver (Navy), the Honorable Donnie Tuck (Mayor of Hampton), Captain Dean VanderLey (Naval Facilities Engineering Command), and Ben McFarlane (Hampton Roads Planning District Commission) speaking. Panel segments evaluated the effectiveness and necessity for various partnerships, and channels of communication both within and outside the military community.
Professor Andrews, Director of Virginia Coastal Policy Center (VCPC) at the William & Mary Law School, concluded the conference with remarks that employed VCPC as an example to underline the importance of collaborative efforts.
The conference was sponsored by Virginia Sea Grant, Virginia Environmental Endowment, W&M’s Virginia Institute of Marine Science, Sealevelrise.org, the Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the Middle Peninsula Planning District Commission.