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Sea Level Rise Flooding Adaptation Forum Looks at Megaprojects

Sea Level Rise Flooding Adaptation Forum Looks at Megaprojects

Flooding PortsmouthOn May 22, 2015, the Sea Level Rise/Flooding Adaptation Forum held an all-day discussion on, Megaprojects – Protective Structures for Hampton Roads, at the Virginia Modeling and Simulation Center in Suffolk. The Forum is a partnership of the HRPDC, Old Dominion University (ODU) and Virginia Sea Grant.

The HRPDC’s Whitney Katchmark and representatives from ODU and Virginia Sea Grant welcomed attendees and provided an overview of the day long workshop and series of presentations from representatives of the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (UNC-CH), HNTB, Moffatt and Nichol and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS). Some highlights included:

VIMS provided a preview of its analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of a storm surge barrier across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. The final analysis will consider impacts to marshes, submerged aquatic vegetation, fish species, and the effectiveness at reducing flooding in storms.

Both Bob Ivarson (HNTB) and Rick Luettich (UNC-CH) discussed the infrastructure in New Orleans. Mr. Ivarson focused on the $13B spent on the federally funded system of floodwalls, gates and pump stations that protect the area. Mr. Luettich discussed the local funding mechanisms and challenges of getting new taxes approved to maintain the infrastructure. Once the Army Corps of Engineers completes construction, the infrastructure is handed off to localities. The system around New Orleans has over 400 closures (i.e. gates across roads and rail lines) that have to be maintained and closed to protect from flooding caused by storm events.  With three parishes (similar to counties) located within the flood wall system, another challenge has developed as one of the 3 parishes has failed, on two occasions,  to vote in a tax increase required to maintain its part of the system.

Brian Joyner of Moffatt and Nichol led a discussion of hypothetical solutions for Hampton Roads. He suggested using the PIANC decision-making tool (for more information about PIANC and the decision making tool visit their website, www.PIANC.org) to evaluate potential storm surge barrier locations such as the entrance to the Hampton Roads harbor (near the HRBT), the Elizabeth River, or Lafayette River.  The Forum discussed how large protection structures might reduce impacts during Hurricanes and Nor’easters, but concluded that smaller scale infrastructure will still be necessary to reduce recurrent tidal flooding at a neighborhood scale.