VCPC Conference Connects Science and Policy for VASG Fellows

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VCPC Conference Connects Science and Policy for VASG Fellows

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Curtis Smith (left), Lewis Lawrence, Albert Pollard, Ben McFarlane and Moderator Elizabeth Andrews discuss pressures facing working waterfront communities, and how planning can address them. ©Ian Vorster/VASG

On December 2, William & Mary Law School’s Virginia Coastal Policy Center (VCPC) hosted their fourth annual conference at the Williamsburg Lodge. Themed “Living with the Water – Too Much, and Too Little,” the event focused on current issues in Virginia’s coastal areas, such as conflicting uses of water and bottomlands, and groundwater depletion.

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The Honorable Ralph Northam, Virginia’s Lieutenant Governor, discusses issues faced by Virginia’s working waterfront communities. ©Ian Vorster/VASG

During the morning, Bill Pruitt, former chairman of the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, unveiled the new Virginia Working Waterfront Master Plan, followed by panels discussing the Plan and various issues facing working waterfronts in Virginia. In the afternoon there was a public forum on the Hampton Roads Sanitation District’s Sustainable Water Initiative for Tomorrow (SWIFT) project, a proposal to inject treated wastewater into the ground to replenish the groundwater aquifer.

“We are proud to help introduce Virginia’s first Working Waterfront Master Plan to the community, and to host the first public forum on the Hampton Roads Sanitation District’s proposed groundwater injection project—a potential game-changer for water supply planning in the Commonwealth,” said VCPC Director Elizabeth Andrews.

The Honorable Ralph Northam, Virginia’s Lieutenant Governor, helped outline issues faced by Virginia’s working waterfront communities today. Three VCPC students, Noah Trombly, Derek Van De Walle, and Chelsea Wilkins, further explored user conflicts through a series of case studies. A panel of legislators, including The Honorable Robert Bloxom and The Honorable Keith Hodges from the Virginia House of Delegates, and The Honorable Lynwood Lewis from the Virginia Senate, also discussed issues faced by communities with working waterfronts and potential legislative measures to address them. More VCPC students, Emily Tucker and Patrick Harner, presented an examination of legal, scientific, and policy issues surrounding the Hampton Roads SWIFT project.

The following Virginia Sea Grant graduate research fellows attended the conference and found value in connections the conference made between science and policy:

  • “I found it to be very informative. This conference is perhaps your single best opportunity to learn about how county, regional, and state-level policymakers interact to craft coastal policies. The conference is also a unique opportunity to interact with a surprisingly large number of those policymakers in person.” –Matthew Oreska
  • “I really enjoyed the conference. Although at first I felt way outside of my comfort zone in a room full of lawyers and politicians, I quickly came to realize the value of integrating scientists with this community at events such as the VCPC conference. As a scientist, the best way for me to effect change is by sharing my research with those in a position to enact that change. The VCPC conference was a great introduction to the vernacular and concerns of local officials and lawyers, and how scientists can engage with this community to make science-informed policy changes happen.” –Hannah Aichelman
  • “I thought it was really encouraging to hear legislators talk about how important the science is in decision making. That made me realize that the science we are doing isn’t just going into a black hole, but is actually reaching policy makers. The subjects that were discussed were also very interesting, and though not directly related to my work, I liked learning about these different topics.” –Zoemma Warshafsky
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Col. Jason Kelly, Commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Norfolk District Office, discusses the Corps’ efforts to address sea level rise and restore oysters in the Chesapeake Bay. ©Ian Vorster/VASG

The conference was capped off by a reception at the Muscarelle Museum of Art at William & Mary, featuring Virginia oysters and a presentation by Col. Jason Kelly, Commander of the US Army Corps of Engineers’ Norfolk District Office, on the Corps’ efforts to address sea level rise. Col. Kelly noted the importance of all of us doing our part to address the challenges posed by sea level rise and recurrent flooding.

You can watch the conference in its entirety here.

An extension partner of Virginia Sea Grant, VCPC at William & Mary Law School provides policy and legal analysis to its partners on coastal resource and community issues in its mission to educate and train the future lawyers and leaders of tomorrow.