RICHMOND, Va. – As Gov. Ralph Northam puts together his budget proposal for the 2020 General Assembly session, groups are urging him to provide money for the Virginia Shoreline Resiliency Fund.
The 2016 bipartisan legislation that established the fund was passed to help communities fight the effects of rising sea levels and inland flooding.
But it has yet to receive a single dollar of funding, according to Yaron Miller, officer with Pew’s Flood-Prepared Communities team.
Meanwhile, Miller says, devastating floods in the state have cost millions of dollars in the past few years – and the fund could save money.
“We know that for every dollar invested to reduce our risk from flood disasters, we can see $6 in savings from future avoided costs,” he points out. “And so, a $50 million investment in the fund could result in $300 million in savings.”
Investing in a flood-risk reduction program is more urgent than ever, Miller says, pointing out that Virginia has seen seven presidential disaster declarations related to flooding between 2009 and 2018.
Kevin Utt, president of the Virginia Floodplain Management Association, agrees the state needs to aim more resources at flood mitigation projects.
He notes that some areas have stepped up with their own projects to reduce the impact of flooding.
“The folks down in the Norfolk area, they restored wetlands in a park so they can better absorb storm surge,” he relates. “And as well, Hampton Roads area is looking to gain funding to acquire properties to create green space.”
Those local resources are limited, though, and Utt says it isn’t sustainable for communities to keep funding these projects in the long run.
He stresses the timing is right to get the Commonwealth’s flood program funded.
“You know, I think it’s critical and pivotal right now because of the budget session that we ask the governor to make that part of his budget,” he states. “It is much needed. Flooding is not going to go away.”
Utt adds the flooding in Virginia has become so dire that communities don’t have time to wait to get help from backlogged and debt-strapped federal programs.
Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.