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ODU Helps Shape Governor’s Executive Order on Floodplain Construction Rules for State-Owned Buildings

A new executive order signed by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, aimed at better protecting state-owned property, was supported by the Commonwealth Center for Recurrent Flooding Resiliency (CCRFR), co-founded by Old Dominion University in 2016.

Executive Order Forty-Five creates the Virginia Flood Risk Management Standard, encouraging the use of science and resilient construction of state buildings in flood-prone areas. In the Standard, Virginia becomes the first state to incorporate science-based sea level rise projections for future asset construction and management.

The governor's office released Executive Order Forty-Five on Nov. 15.

At the request of the Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew Strickler and the Special Assistant to the Governor for Coastal Adaptation and Protection Ann Phillips, an ODU team worked closely with the Commonwealth to develop research-based recommendations to for elevation standards for new, state-owned buildings.

The team, comprised of Carol Considine, Michael Seek, Mujde Erten-Unal, George McLeod and Emily Steinhilber, developed a report coupling the newest professional guidelines of the American Association of Civil Engineers with local sea level rise information from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS). The recommendations proposed continuing Virginia's restriction on building in the 100-year floodplain but extended that restriction to the 500-year floodplain.

Executive Order Forty-Five also creates a working group to establish state-level National Flood Insurance Program complaint requirements for development activities by state agencies on state-owned property.

"This is a prime example of the reason the CCRFR was established," said Steinhilber, research assistant professor with the center. "At the request of the secretary and special assistant, we were quickly able to build a team to begin developing researched-based freeboard standards and collaborate with our partners at VIMS throughout that process. We then turned over that research to the governor's staff to implement standards for the state and increase our overall resilience in Virginia."

The CCRFR seeks to work with scientists, local and state political figures, community leaders, the military and others to integrate the latest science with legal and policy analysis to solve coastal resource management issues. It was founded to bring together the expertise of Old Dominion University and William & Mary's Virginia Institute of Marine Science and Virginia Coastal Policy Center to conduct interdisciplinary studies and provide training, technical and nontechnical services and policy guidance about recurrent flooding resilience.

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