The Virginia Coastal Policy Center’s sixth annual conference opened with a discussion of the challenges facing Virginia and concluded with promises of action from Governor Ralph Northam, who signed an executive order to increase Virginia’s resiliency.
“Rising seas and encroaching development will squeeze out critical coastal barriers like marshes, dunes, and riparian farms,” Northam said in his address. “These serve as habitats for fish and wildlife and serve as filters for water entering our Chesapeake Bay. We are fortunate that the Coastal Policy Center, along with many groups and individuals, is focused on addressing these threats to public safety and economic prosperity.”
Under the umbrella of building a resilient Virginia, leaders in government, policy, and research gathered to discuss future opportunities and current initiatives underway in Virginia. Speakers addressed resilience from a variety of perspectives.
One panel discussed the challenges of maintaining of roads, ditches, and sewage systems. Four Virginia representatives followed up with a discussion of the legislative processes that are tied to improving Virginia’s infrastructure. Over lunch, members of the Pamunkey tribe emphasized the value of viewing natural resources as cultural and economic resources.
Even though rising coastal waters present challenges for the Commonwealth, this also presents opportunities. Afternoon panelists talked about the ecotourism boosts that accompany land and resource conservation. Virginia Sea Grant Director Troy Hartley moderated a panel of leaders at the forefront of water management for the state of Louisiana. Among them was Stephen Moret, former Louisiana secretary of economic development.
“We needed to cultivate new growth engines for the state of Louisiana,” Moret said. “We went through a pretty comprehensive strategic planning process, and one of the really interesting ideas that came out of it was cultivating the water management industry as an export opportunity for the state of Louisiana.”
The state of Louisiana and other partners have started building and expanding the Water Campus, a collaborative workspace devoted to coast-related projects for use by both private- and public-sector organizations. The 35-acre waterfront campus aims to bring together many groups and promote collaborative projects. The campus also houses the Water Institute of the Gulf, a not-for-profit that connects academic, public, and private research.
Even though Virginia’s coasts aren’t the same as the Gulf, the Commonwealth can learn from Louisiana about how to encourage collaborative resilience efforts. John Spain, executive vice president of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, said providing an independent space allows more groups to come together and opens lines of communication across disciplines. Louisiana State University took a similar approach creating a Coastal Sustainability Studio and placing scientists, engineers, and designers in close proximity to one another. Robert Twilley, executive director of Louisiana Sea Grant,described the unique classes, internships, and collaborative projects facilitated by this arrangement.
Under the umbrella of building a resilient Virginia, leaders in government, policy, and research gathered to discuss future opportunities and current initiatives underway in Virginia.
Virginia Sea Grant is beginning to investigate the possibility of a water campus through a series of discussions and workshops funded by a GO Virginia planning grant. The grant will help the region explore how to form a water management economy. Moret, now the president and CEO of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership suggested that Virginia could adopt a similar strategy of making resilience research and development a larger part of the economy.
“I think about building a global image of Virginia as one of the places in the world where the people are doing the best science and the best engineering in this venue across the world,” said Moret, adding that the groundwork for collaborative resilience work is already in place. “Obviously, we have a tremendous amount of assets to be building upon.”
Written by Madeleine Jepsen | Virginia Sea Grant
Video and photos by Aileen Devlin | Virginia Sea Grant
The VCPC’s sixth annual conference opened with a discussion of the challenges facing Virginia and concluded with promises of action from Governor Ralph Northam, who signed an executive order to increase Virginia’s resiliency.
Virginia Sea Grant is beginning to investigate the possibility of a water campus through a series of discussions and workshops funded by a GO Virginia planning grant.