COASTAL PROJECTS GET A $3.7M BOOST
Grants aimed at making Hampton Roads areas more resilient to storms and flooding
Hampton Roads is getting more than $3.7 million in federal grants for projects to strengthen coastlines against the impacts of storms and sea level rise.
The grants to the James River Association, the city of Norfolk and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science will go to build living shorelines in Hampton and Norfolk and bolster the resiliency of Virginia’s barrier islands.
Together with local matching funds, the total amount dedicated to regional projects is more than $7.4 million.
The grants, announced Friday, are among 35 totaling $28.9 million awarded in 22 states and Puerto Rico by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and NOAA as part of a new National Coastal Resilience Fund.
The Richmond-based James River Association will use its $2.2 million grant, along with matching funds, to build adaptive living shorelines and green infrastructure projects on public land in Hampton.
JRA Program Director Shawn Ralston said Hampton is at the forefront of the growing urban shoreline resilience movement, and this latest project will go a long way toward preventing erosion and enhancing public land.
The grant will also help form a Living Shoreline Collaborative to foster urban/ rural cooperation across the lower James.
Norfolk will use its $1.3 million and a $1.2 million match to build a hybrid living shoreline and expand a riparian buffer along the Lafayette River. The project will bolster the shoreline in a lower-income neighborhood and support water quality and habitat improvements.
And VIMS in Gloucester Point will put its $250,000 grant and its match toward an engineering design plan to restore and expand a 450acre marsh along southern Cedar Island on the Eastern Shore and provide resiliency outreach to residents there.
Chris Hein, VIMS coastal geologist, said Cedar Island is probably the fastest-eroding island in Virginia. It serves to protect the town of Wachapreague. The project will use the marsh growing in back of the barrier island to slow its inland migration.
“It’s a new approach to naturally stabilizing a barrier
island by building up its backside,” Hein said Friday.
VIMS is partnering on the project with Randolph-Macon College, The George Washington University and the Stantec Inc. consulting engineering firm, based in Canada.
Erika Feller, director of Marine and Coastal Conservation at the NFWF, manages the coastal resilience fund, which launched in June.
“When we talk about bringing people together, this is what it looks like,” Feller said Friday. “Working with congressional leaders, with NOAA and the private sector created an extraordinary funding opportunity for conservation and to help coastal communities.”
The fund sought out two types of projects, she said — those “that were designed, that were permitted, that were ready to go” and those that needed a boost to get to the construction phase. By August, they had received 174 proposals.
“From this incredible response, we see evidence that communities have been thinking really hard about ways to manage the risks posed by coastal storms and flooding,” Feller said.
Key to authorizing and funding the new grants were U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., and Sen. John Kennedy, R-La.
“We have to pay attention to America’s coastlines,” Whitehouse said. “And we don’t. Too much of what happens on the coastlines is ignored in Congress.
“What people don’t know who don’t live near the coasts is what the coasts are facing in terms of hazards, whether it’s our fishermen (facing) offshore warming so that the fisheries out there are completely turned upside down, or whether it is coastal municipalities having to worry about flooding and storm surge in ways that they never had to think about before.”
$250,000 and a match will go to help bolster rapidly eroding Cedar Island on the Eastern Shore, left, by building up its marsh. Rapid landward migration has stranded several vacation homes built there in the 1980s.$2.2 million, along with matching funds, will be used to build adaptive living shorelines and green infrastructure projects in Hampton.$1.3 million, and a $1.2 million match, will build a hybrid living shoreline and expand a riparian buffer along the Lafayette River