Virginia to invest $120.5 million federal grant to help combat climate change and sea level rise
NORFOLK—Governor Ralph Northam joined City of Norfolk Mayor Kenneth Cooper Alexander and federal, state, and local partners to break ground on the Ohio Creek Watershed Project. The project is a collaborative effort to address the impacts of sea level rise in Hampton Roads.
The Ohio Creek Watershed includes two residential, predominantly African American neighborhoods with civic leagues and a strong community identity. Historic Chesterfield Heights has over 400 houses on the Historic National Register, and Grandy Village includes a public housing community with more than 300 homes. A new park, to be named Resilience Park, will connect the Grandy Village and Chesterfield Heights neighborhoods and include a flood berm, a restored tidal creek and wetland, as well as a multi-use sports field and places for community gatherings and recreation.
“Our climate is changing, and it is affecting our coastal areas with more intense hurricanes and storms and more frequent tidal flooding,” said Governor Northam. “The Ohio Creek Watershed project is an example of the kind of work we need to do to protect lives, property, and economic opportunity in Hampton Roads, and the innovation that will help us build a safer, more sustainable, and resilient Virginia for future generations.”
In 2016, Virginia was awarded $120.5 million through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) National Disaster Resilience Competition for innovative solutions to prevent sea level rise in Hampton Roads. Over the last three years, the City of Norfolk has worked with stakeholders, partners, and affected communities to design and develop a plan for the project.
“The Ohio Creek Watershed project is exactly the kind of community scale resilience effort we want to promote,” said Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew J. Strickler. “We look forward to helping Norfolk and other localities find additional creative solutions to reduce the impacts of global warming.”
Approximately $112 million will be used to design a coastal community that is resilient to the increasing risks of flooding. The Ohio Creek Watershed project will invest in pump stations, tide gates, road improvements, pervious pavement, and other water retention strategies to improve the City’s storm water system. The project will restore natural wetlands and create a coastal berm and natural living shorelines to increase the effectiveness of the structural flood control. There will also be additional ecosystem benefits, including green spaces to hold and absorb flood waters, filtration of pollutants, and natural walking trails that connect neighborhoods.
“This project is a great example of how local, state, and federal partners can work together to build stronger, innovative communities,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “By including residents in the grant submission and the implementation of flood management, we are creating a community-driven approach to building a more resilient Norfolk community.”
HUD allocated $5.25 million of the $120.5 million award to support the development of the nation’s first-of-its-kind resilience innovation hub called RISE, a Norfolk-based non-profit that provides businesses resources to develop and grow resilience-building solutions for coastal communities. The balance of the grant will be used to pay administrative costs of the project.
RISE’s first initiative was their signature Coastal Community Resilience Challenge. In April 2019, Governor Northam announced $1.5 million in funding for six businesses that received between $160,000 and $310,000 to develop innovative products, services, and workforce development programs to help coastal communities adapt to climate change.
“The City of Norfolk is honored to receive this grant,” said City of Norfolk Mayor Kenneth Cooper Alexander. “Through strategic and collaborative partnerships between the City of Norfolk, the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Ohio Creek Watershed Project strengthens our coastal resilience, creates innovative storm water management solutions, and unites communities. This transformational project sets in motion our plans to protect our historic and diverse neighborhoods.”
In November 2018, Governor Northam issued Executive Order Twenty-Four to bolster Virginia’s resilience to sea level rise and natural hazards. The executive order is among the most comprehensive actions taken by any state to improve resilience and protect people and property from natural catastrophes and lays out a series of actions the Commonwealth will undertake to limit the impact of flooding, extreme weather events, and wildfires.
“With the Ohio Creek Watershed Project, the City of Norfolk, along with the Chesterfield Heights and Grandy Village communities have achieved a level of collaboration that will serve as a model for many urban and rural localities across Coastal Virginia,” said Admiral Ann Phillips, Special Assistant to the Governor for Coastal Adaptation and Protection. “These communities deserve sound nature-based solutions that are uniquely tailored to their shared needs as they begin to adapt and protect neighborhoods from rising waters.”
For more information on the Ohio Creek Watershed Project and Virginia’s National Disaster Resilience Competition grant, visit dhcd.virginia.gov/resiliency.