By Tess Mackey, Virginia Sea Grant Correspondent
A new class of William & Mary law students has joined the Virginia Coastal Policy Clinic (VCPC). These students will conduct legal and policy analysis for coastal communities and participate in state-level policy meetings.
This week we will post stories every day to highlight VCPC students and the coastal policy questions they’ve been tackling this semester.
This spring, three Virginia Coastal Policy (VCPC) students will research the local government’s authority to address sea level rise and recurrent flooding. Under the Dillon Rule, Virginia’s local governments only have the authority the General Assembly grants them. There are specific statutes that address recurrent flooding, yet localities often believe that they do not have authority to be proactive in dealing with the issue.
While the VCPC has already examined the issue of local government authority under the Dillon Rule in Norfolk and Poquoson, this semester’s students will help separate the perception of authority from the reality of the law so that Virginia localities can effectively adapt to sea level rise.
Read on to learn more about the students working on this project.
Susan Vermillion became interested in environmental law while working as a legal intern for the Food Integrity Campaign. There, she researched agricultural permitting, the Clean Water Act, and wrote a brief about laws prohibiting photography or film in agricultural operations and their relationship to the First Amendment.
Vermillion will be putting her skills to new use at the VCPC. “In terms of sea level rise, we’re going to be looking at what specific grants of authority should be given to local governments,” she says.
Vermillion is from Northern Virginia and completed her undergraduate education at Brigham Young University with a degree in Conservation Biology. She is in her third year at William & Mary Law School, where she is the Editor-in-Chief of the Environmental Law and Policy Review.
Trace Hall jokes that he “was born with muddy water flowing through his veins.” Growing up near Yorktown, Virginia, Hall spent much of his childhood out on the marshes fishing and kayaking. Now, these same coastal marshes are threatened by salinity changes due to rising sea level.
“By the nature of where we live, this is a big issue,” says Hall. “I believe that progressive and well-informed management of our coasts and wetlands is essential to preserving coastal ecosystems and still allowing for people to enjoy the water and all this area has to offer.”
While working for the Hampton City Attorney’s Office on land use issues, Hall became interested in the role lawyers can play in coastal management: interpreting legislative changes, identifying solutions for a specific locality, and coordinating with other jurisdictions.
Hall completed his undergraduate studies at Hampden-Sydney College, where he majored in history with a minor in rhetoric. He is currently in his second year at William & Mary Law School.
Eric Jabs will bring over three decades of extensive experience in the Navy to his work with the VCPC this spring. A retired U.S. Navy captain, he spent his career as a submarine officer and Navy SCUBA diver. Jabs describes his involvement with the VCPC as “going back to [his] roots in the ocean…continuing to serve in the public policy field.”
“One of the ways I can add value to the VCPC is the access I have to these folks professionally and locally [as a Virginia Beach resident],” says Jabs.
Jabs completed his undergraduate education at the University of South Carolina in Mechanical Engineering. He also holds two Master’s degrees: Ocean Engineering from the University of New Hampshire and National Security Strategy from the National Defense University. He is currently starting a civilian job with the Naval Undersea Warfare Center at Cheatham Annex in Yorktown, Virginia and pursuing a PhD through Old Dominion University in Oceanography, Maritime Management, and Public Policy. The VCPC will be the capstone course for Jabs’ PhD program.
The VCPC is an ongoing collaboration between the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, Virginia Sea Grant, and William & Mary Law School. It provides science-based legal and policy analysis of critical and coastal management issues to state and local governments and educates the Virginia policymaking, non-profit, legal, and business communities about these subjects.