Sea Level Rise Reality Check Comes to Hampton Roads

Participants at the ULI Reality Check on March 17, 2015, at ODU's Ted Constance Center. ©Jugal Patel/VASG
Participants at the Urban Land Institute’s Reality Check on March 17, 2015, at ODU’s Ted Constance Center. ©Urban Land Institute Hampton Roads

By Jugal Patel, Student Correspondent

On March 17, Hampton Roads leaders came together at Old Dominion University (ODU) to identify the priorities, efforts, and resources needed to deal with issues related to sea level rise and flooding. The conversation was the kickoff to an Urban Land Institute (ULI) Hampton Roads “Reality Check” series of annual events.

“The goal of the ULI’s Reality Check events is to allow diverse groups to have a say in visioning and planning a region’s future,” says Michelle Covi, Virginia Sea Grant extension staff at ODU and organizer of the event. “This is the first time this diversity of opinions and perspectives were shared in one room.”

Dan Bell, executive director of ULI Hampton Roads, says, “The Reality Check was one of several initiatives intended to help the region prepare for inevitable change. To ensure long-term viability and sustainability, the region must adapt to the changes occurring from global dynamics.”

Among the top concerns expressed by participants: how to balance sea level rise adaptation and the Hampton Roads economy, and how to secure funding to build structures that will reduce flood effects.

At the end of the event, participants voted on actions for addressing these and other sea level rise concerns. The actions of greatest interest included: attracting funding through regional collaboration, revising zoning and land use, and public education and outreach.

Following the event, social scientists at ODU will analyze the results of the discussions and the voting exercise. Their findings, says Covi, “can be used by the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission, the municipalities, and the Intergovernmental Pilot Project to inform their work to build regional resilience.”

The Hampton Roads Intergovernmental Pilot Project is an initiative tasked by the White House and the Pentagon to establish a “whole of government” and “whole of community” approach to resilience planning and sea level rise preparation. In June 2016, it will hand off to a more permanent intergovernmental planning team.

The Resilient Reality Check event was a collaboration between the ULI and ODU’s Mitigation and Adaptation Research Institute. Over 130 representatives from civic organizations, businesses, and nonprofits participated, along with local, state, and federal officials.

Bell says he feels optimistic about the outcome of the Reality Check collaboration. “As a region we will persevere,” he says, “demonstrating what a proactive region can and will do to anticipate, adapt, and overcome.”

The complete Hampton Roads Resistant Region Reality Check report can be accessed: here

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