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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

State Legislators Hear About ODU's Community-Wide Approach to Sea Level Rise at Subcommittee Meeting

A Virginia General Assembly subcommittee created to study sea level rise and recurrent flooding held its November meeting at Old Dominion University on Wednesday, Nov. 5, and heard about the university's plans for a community-wide approach to tackling the complex issue.

The Virginia General Assembly subcommittee, chaired by Del. Chris Stolle (R - Virginia Beach), heard from ODU President John R. Broderick, as well as Ray Toll, director of coastal resilience research at Old Dominion University.

The Flooding, Joint Subcommittee was formed by the Virginia House of Delegates in March to formulate recommendations for the development of a comprehensive and coordinated planning effort to address recurrent flooding.

The joint House resolution that created the subcommittee directs its members to seek out technical assistance from Virginia colleges and universities with expertise in the subject matter during its meetings, which brought the Flooding, Joint Subcommittee to Old Dominion.

President Broderick told elected officials they had come to the right place, not only because of the multidisciplinary expertise in the issues of sea level rise and recurrent flooding, but in the geography around ODU.

"You can see it all around us. Our campus is located between the Elizabeth and Lafayette Rivers. We have seen significant flooding events, and it's reflected in the new construction projects in our Master Plan," Broderick said.

"In this whole region, the notion of how we adapt and mitigate is essential to us."

The creation of ODU's Climate Change and Sea Level Rise Initiative in 2010 not only addressed the real need of research to mitigate the effects of rising sea levels, but also sought to tap into the university's multidisciplinary expertise. It's more than an engineering and science issue, Broderick said.

"It's an issue of public policy. There are public health concerns, insurance concerns. We realize that an interdisciplinary research approach is necessary, with participation from all of these entities here in Hampton Roads."

Toll chaired a first-of-its-kind conference at ODU in June, called Tech Surge, to discuss a community-wide approach to sea level rise mitigation, with an eye to creating a pilot program that could be implemented in flood-prone areas around the country.

In July, a bipartisan meeting at ODU hosted by Sen. Tim Kaine further focused the need for collaborative expertise to tackle this complex issue. Toll told the state committee members that ODU is ready to lead this initiative.

On this issue, "Federal agencies want to put money into regions that are coming together," Toll said. "It just seems to me like we have all the right pieces in place here."

Toll added that Kaine has written 11 federal agencies asking them to figure out how they could participate in the local project to strengthen the infrastructure and preparedness of the region, preparing it for sea level rise and flooding challenges it faces.

Containing 11 Virginia House and Senate members, the Flooding, Joint Subcommittee includes Democratic and Republican members. It will conduct a statewide review and recommend short- and long-term strategies for minimizing the impact of recurrent flooding caused by sea level rise.

Completing meetings by Nov. 30, the subcommittee will present its findings by the start of the next regular session of the General Assembly, which begins in January.

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