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Old Dominion University Plays Key Coordinating Role in National Disaster Resilience Competition Grant Application

A combined Commonwealth of Virginia, City of Norfolk, City of Chesapeake and Old Dominion University proposal to help protect the Hampton Roads region from the effects of sea level rise has advanced to the final round of a grant competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The Virginia application -- designed to assist vulnerable populations in the two Hampton Roads communities recover from storm events, and prepare for future disasters -- was selected as one of 40 projects nationwide to compete for support from the $1 billion National Disaster Resilience Competition (NDRC), sponsored by HUD and the Rockefeller Foundation.

Old Dominion University, which for decades has been a hub of climate change and sea level rise research, played a key coordinating role in the application, which was submitted on behalf of the group by Virginia's Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD).

"Old Dominion's Sea Level Rise initiative and strengths in modeling and simulation made the university a logical partner in helping the Commonwealth put together a successful Phase I application," said Morris Foster, the University's Vice President of Research.

"Through our growing collaboration with the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, we're ready to assist with Phase II, along with Virginia's other colleges and universities. An NRDC award would trigger a true transformation in how Hampton Roads adapts to rising waters, primarily by making smart choices that would allow us to thrive with water."

Old Dominion University President John R. Broderick said the multi-agency collaboration involved in the grant application is reflective of what a complex problem sea level rise is for coastal communities.

"We need everyone at the table to come up with the best solutions to mitigate the effect of rising sea levels, and adapt to this new reality," Broderick said. "We are delighted to partner with DHCD and the cities of Norfolk and Chesapeake on the HUD grant, and we look forward to bringing together expertise from other universities and agencies in a true team effort."

At the state level, the process was led by the office of Gov. Terry McAuliffe, as well as Virginia's Secretary of Commerce and Trade, Virginia's Chief Resilience officer and DHCD - the designated grant applicant.

"Virginia's continued success in this important competition is great news for our ongoing efforts to combat the effects of global warming and recurrent flooding," McAuliffe said. "The Commonwealth is committed to developing a strong plan with our partners that will continue to build upon the efforts put forth in the resiliency planning process, and we hope to receive additional resources to strengthen these vulnerable communities and improve economic vitality for the region."

The grant development process involved staff from Old Dominion's Office of Research and Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center; as well as the cities of Chesapeake and Norfolk, including Norfolk's Chief Resilience Officer Christine Morris, all of whom gathered input from local stakeholders. In all, more than 100 workshops, work groups, committee meetings and forums were held to seek input into the process.

The result of the proposal was the creation of an innovative living with water approach called "thRIVe: Resilience in Virginia." It aligns with HUD's National Objective to directly benefit low- and moderate-income residents and households by focusing on unmet recovery needs, as well as building regional resilience capacity to adapt to sea level rise and manage extreme weather events.

ThRIVe has five major goals: unite the region; create coastal resilience; build water management solutions; improve economic vitality; and strengthen vulnerable neighborhoods. This comprehensive approach is designed to capitalize on the region's strengths and convert risk and vulnerabilities into economic opportunities, and the ability to demonstrate best practices to low-lying areas nationwide.

"Virginia has strong cooperation from various partners in the Hampton Roads region and throughout the state. We are confident in the Commonwealth's proposed plan, 'thRIVe', and the resilience goals we have set forth," said Virginia's Chief Resilience Officer and Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran.

Through the application, Hampton Roads seeks to capitalize on the region's strengths -- reducing risk to its most vulnerable communities, while developing a thriving, model maritime region that derives its economic vitality from its coastal location.

The NDRC makes $1 billion available to communities that have been struck by natural disasters in recent years. The competition promotes risk assessment, stakeholder engagement, and planning and will fund the implementation of innovative resilience projects to better prepare communities for future storms and other extreme events.

All states with counties that experienced a Presidentially-declared major disaster in 2011, 2012 or 2013 were eligible to submit Phase 1 applications that address unmet needs as well as vulnerabilities to future extreme events. The program aims to help communities recover and enhance resilience in future disasters by giving them up to $500 million.

As it did in Phase 1 of the NDRC competitions, the Rockefeller Foundation will provide targeted technical assistance to eligible states and communities and support a stakeholder-driven process, informed by the best available data, to identify recovery needs and innovative solutions.

The deadline for Phase II applications is October 27.

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