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Coastal Virginia Testing a New Approach to Flood Planning
Ryan Murphy reports on the recently unveiled plan to fortify the neighborhood of Chesterfield Heights in Norfolk, Virginia, from coastal erosion and sea-level rise.
"[The] ambitious $112 million federally funded plan — the final version of which was unveiled last week — aims to halt the advance of the water and keep Chesterfield Heights dry for decades to come, as Norfolk faces down an estimated 2½ feet of sea level rise within 50 years," according to Murphy.
The plan, called the Ohio Creek Watershed Project, expanded beyond the original plan to build a series of seawalls and five drainage pumps. Murphy explains the changes since earlier versions of the plan:
Softer options like earth berms replace hardened sea walls. The berms, several feet high in some places, will be easier to update and reinforce than a traditional concrete structure — just toss some more dirt on it.
Ohio Creek is tidal and will flood and drain freely, as it always has. But Hayes Creek right next door will have a tide gate that can be dropped at low tide when a storm is coming. The creek and its wetlands will serve as a basin, collecting rainwater rather than letting it flood neighborhood streets. Then the gate will reopen after the storm to let the water drain out to sea.
The idea for the plan is also to export the knowledge gained from the plan's new and varied approaches to cities and communities in other parts of the country.