Warner, Kaine, Scott & Luria Push OMB and Army Corps for Funds to Mitigate Coastal Storm Surge in Norfolk

January 31, 2020
Press Release
Request $5.4 million in funds to complete first phase of the Norfolk Coastal Storm Risk Management Project in the Army Corps FY 2020 Work Plan

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA), along with U.S. Reps. Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Elaine Luria (D-VA), sent a letter to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requesting $5.4 million in the Army Corps FY 2020 Work Plan for the Norfolk Coastal Storm Risk Management Project. The funding will be used to complete the Preliminary Engineering and Design (PED) phase of the project. The first phase of the project was authorized in the 2018 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), which was supported by Sens. Warner and Kaine to develop mitigation solutions to reduce water surge risk in Norfolk. The project is eligible to be authorized for general construction in the 2020 WRDA.

“The City of Norfolk, Virginia is a highly urbanized area with most of the City falling below an elevation of 15 feet. The low elevation places Norfolk at risk from flooding due to high tides, nor’easters, and hurricanes. In August 2011, Hurricane Irene caused debilitating floods in the region resulting in millions of dollars in damages and the displacement of thousands of families. This flooding, because of the concentration of globally valuable military and economic assets located in Norfolk, poses great risk to key national assets,” wrote the members of Congress.

The Norfolk Coastal Storm Risk Management Project will establish a series of structural and non-structural barriers to reduce the risk of water surges in structures including:

  • The Hague / Downtown Storm Surge Barrier: This structural feature would be a 600 linear foot storm surge barrier with a pump and power station. The surge barrier would tie into 27,236 linear feet of constructed floodwall and 2,582 linear feet of earthen levee. Three pump stations also would be constructed and operated for interior drainage.
  • Pretty Lake Storm Surge Barrier: This structural feature would be a 114 linear foot storm surge barrier with a pump and power station. The feature would tie into 5,642 linear feet of floodwall.
  • Lafayette River Storm Surge Barrier: This structural feature would be a 6,634 linear foot storm surge barrier with a power station. The feature would tie into 1,535 linear feet of constructed earthen levee. Three tide gates would be constructed and operated.
  • Broad Creek Storm Surge Barrier: This feature would be a 1,291 linear foot storm surge barrier with four operational tide gates and a power station. The surge barrier would tie into approximately 8,787 linear feet of flood wall. One pump station also would be constructed and operated for interior drainage.
  • Natural and Nature-Based Features (NNBF): These Coastal Storm Risk Management (CSRM) features would include approximately 0.3 acres of oyster reef and approximately 8.9 acres of living shoreline to increase resiliency.

In their letter, the members of Congress also emphasized that every additional year it takes to complete Norfolk’s flood risk management project only hurts the city’s ability to better prepare for extreme weather. 

A copy of the letter can be found here and below.

Dear Acting Director Vought and Assistant Secretary James:

We write today to urge you to include funding for the City of Norfolk, Virginia’s Coastal Storm Risk Management (CSRM) project in the FY 2020 Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) Work Plan. Specifically, we request $5.4 million in the Work Plan to complete the Preliminary Engineering and Design (PED) phase of the project.

The City of Norfolk, Virginia is a highly urbanized area with most of the City falling below an elevation of 15 feet. The low elevation places Norfolk at risk from flooding due to high tides, nor’easters, and hurricanes. In August 2011, Hurricane Irene caused debilitating floods in the region resulting in millions of dollars in damages and the displacement of thousands of families. This flooding, because of the concentration of globally valuable military and economic assets located in Norfolk, poses great risk to key national assets.  

The City hosts Naval Station Norfolk, the largest naval base in the world with a capital replacement value of over $4 billion. Norfolk is home to the United States Fleet Forces Command, including the former U.S. Atlantic Fleet and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Allied Command Transformation, the only NATO command headquartered in North America. The City also hosts Norfolk International Terminals, which is the largest terminal of the Virginia Port Authority—the third busiest port on the eastern seaboard.   

Sea level rise combined with land subsidence exacerbates storm flooding. The frequency, extent, and duration of flooding has increased in recent years in the region and is projected to rise in the future. Norfolk is one of the cities with the highest rate of relative sea level rise (combined sea level and subsidence) among Atlantic coastal communities, as documented in the “Evidence of Sea Level Acceleration at U.S. and Canadian Tide Stations, Atlantic Coast, North America,” and the U.S. Geological Survey Report, “National Assessment of Coastal Vulnerability to Sea Level Rise.” Recent storms that flooded major portions of Norfolk were Hurricane Isabel in 2003, the November 2009 nor’easter, Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, and Hurricane Sandy in 2012. For these reasons, the Army Corps identified Norfolk as one of the nine areas of high risk by the North Atlantic Coast Comprehensive Study (NACCS).

The purposes of the City of Norfolk, Virginia Coastal Storm Risk Management project are to provide structural and/or non-structural solution sets for mitigating the impacts of flooding, and to assist the City of Norfolk in making prudent decisions regarding their water resource needs. 

Extreme weather events will always be a concern in this region. Each additional year it takes to complete Norfolk’s flood risk management project is another opportunity for the next hurricane to devastate this low-lying coastal area. By mitigating future risks, the government can save money on cleanup costs, while providing area families and communities an assurance of safety in the event of catastrophic weather.

The City of Norfolk’s flood risk management project is a major priority for the Commonwealth of Virginia, and we encourage you to consider this request for inclusion in the FY 2020 Work Plan.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

# # #