Va. Governor Signs Executive Order to Combat Sea Level Rise

Coastal flooding in Tidewater Virginia. Photo: J.D. Loftis/ Virginia Institute of Marine Science

This week Virginia’s governor signed an executive order to take action against sea level rise and extreme weather.

Governor Ralph Northam’s Executive Order Twenty Four calls for a “Coastal Resilience Master Plan” to protect the coastline from flooding and other weather impacts. The governor’s office say it’s “among the most comprehensive actions undertaken by any state to improve resilience and protect people and property from natural catastrophes.”

According to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, coastal Virginia has seen the highest rate of relative sea level rise on the whole Atlantic coast, more than 14 inches since 1930. 

“As extreme weather events become more frequent and more intense, the safety and economic well-being of every Virginian is put at greater risk,” said Governor Northam. “The actions the Commonwealth will undertake as a result of this Executive Order will ensure we address this growing challenge head on.”

The executive order includes steps the state government will take to make its facilities resilient, and how local governments should adapt to coastal flooding. It also reviews state compliance with dam and floodplain management laws, and its pre-disaster hazard plans. The executive order emphasizes using nature-based infrastructure and engaging the U.S. military in efforts to protect Coastal Virginia.

The full text of the executive order can be found here.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) Virginia applauded Governor Northam’s “urgently needed” master plan to fight dangerous sea level rise. The organization urged Virginia to adopt natural tools whenever possible. In a statement, CBF Executive Director Rebecca Tomazin writes:

“Under the executive plan, Virginia should prioritize natural solutions with multiple benefits. These nature-based practices, such as living shorelines and rain gardens, both reduce flooding and prevent runoff from polluting local waterways and the Chesapeake Bay. Incentivizing natural solutions helps us adapt to sea level rise and meet Virginia’s commitment to restoring our waters. Thank you to Governor Northam for his leadership on this pressing problem.”

-Meg Walburn Viviano