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Region Adopts Sea Level Rise Planning Policy

Region Adopts Sea Level Rise Planning Policy

The Hampton Roads Planning District Commission adopted a resolution at its October 18 annual meeting encouraging its member localities to plan for sea level rise. This is the first time the region has identified and agreed upon specific planning scenarios to use when making local land use policy and engineering decisions. The recommended scenarios are 1.5 feet of sea level rise for near-term decisions (2018-2050), 3 feet of sea level rise for medium-term decisions (2050-2080), and 4.5 feet of sea level rise for long-term decisions (2080-2100). The primary goal of the regional policy is to support local efforts to plan for sea level rise. Incorporating these scenarios into local policies and ordinances will have a major impact on community resiliency that will increase significantly over time. In addition, this new policy will make it easier for localities to work together and with state and federal agencies.

The resolution also recommends that localities explicitly factor sea level rise into the design of infrastructure projects. This is to be done using sea level rise curves based on long-term global projections and local land subsidence trends. Rather than recommend that all projects use the same values, the policy encourages localities to consider the specific circumstances of a given project. Different projects will have different requirements, and the range of possible adaptation strategies will also vary. Assessing the benefits and costs of adaptation based on specific project needs will help localities make sound decisions for public investment.

The policy was developed by the HRPDC staff with input from the region’s Coastal Resiliency Committee and chief administrative officers. The planning scenarios are based on a combination of sea level trend observations from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science and climate projections from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.