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Town Hall Meeting Set on Hampton Roads Flooding Adaptation

By Jim Raper

The Hampton Roads Sea Level Rise and Flooding Adaptation Forum, which has sponsored a series of workshops during the past year for government, industry and military representatives who have a professional interest in flooding in the region, will open its deliberations to the public on Wednesday, Oct. 2.

Two experts, Kelly Burks-Copes from the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center and Marcia Berman from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS), will be featured speakers at a public town hall meeting sponsored by the forum at 6:30 p.m. in the Advanced Technology Center Theater, 1800 College Crescent, Virginia Beach. (See www.vbate.com/vbdirections.html.)

Larry Atkinson, co-director of Old Dominion's Climate Change and Sea Level Rise Initiative (CCSLRI), which is a sponsor of the Adaptation Forum, said the meeting's theme is federal, state and local perspectives on adapting to sea level rise and flooding. "Everyone is invited to attend and we will include time for questions and a discussion of local responses and actions," Atkinson said.

Burks-Copes will speak on "Quantifying Risks of Climate Change and Sea Level Rise to Naval Station Norfolk." She spoke last year to about 35 attendees of one of the Adaptation Forums, presenting preliminary results of a $1.8 million study the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has done to predict how sea level rise could affect readiness at the Norfolk naval facility. Burks-Copes, an ecologist who is headquartered in Vicksburg, Miss., is a lead investigator on the study and is returning to update local officials about the work.

The headline last year from her talk was the revelation that the Army Corps' models suggest mounting operational difficulties at the Norfolk base even with modest sea level rise. The investigators at that time had identified a "tipping point" somewhere between 0.5 and 1 meter of local sea level rise at which operations at the base could be expected to be nearly halted by a major storm.

Berman, who is with the VIMS Center for Coastal Resource Management, will speak on "Moving Forward: Next Steps for Confronting Increased Flood Risks." She will present a summary of the report on this topic that VIMS submitted to the Virginia General Assembly.

The Adaptation Forum project is funded by the Virginia Sea Grant at VIMS and has been hosted by ODU. The Hampton Roads Planning District Commission also has joined in presenting the series of forums, which has the overall title of "Increased Flooding Risk Due to Sea Level Rise in Hampton Roads - Concerns, Best Practices and Plans for Adaptation."

ODU launched CCSLRI in 2010 with President John R. Broderick's challenge to "identify the multifaceted impact climate change and rising sea levels will have on our region ... and pull together the university and region's foremost experts to find solutions to the anticipated effects on our economy, housing, ports and infrastructure."

Measurements from Sewells Point on the lower Chesapeake Bay since 1927 show that the sea level has been rising about 1.7 inches per decade, and climate scientists say it is likely the rate will increase in the decades to come. Seas are rising because the water is warming (and expanding), land ice is melting and, locally, the land is sinking. ODU's initiative has identified 60 faculty members at the university with expertise that can be put to use in formulating this response. Many of them come from fields such as oceanography, marine science, environmental health, botany and coastal engineering, in which ODU has a rich history of fundamental research related to climate change. But CCSLRI has also engaged faculty members in the humanities, business and education.

The goal of CCSLRI is to establish ODU as a leader in coastal urban adaptation to sea level rise and climate change, said Atkinson, who is Slover Professor of Oceanography at ODU. He directs CCSLRI along with Hans-Peter Plag, senior faculty member in the Department of Ocean, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.

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