Virginia awards $52 million for additional flood resilience projects

Supplemental round includes funding for projects to protect rural private properties

By: - January 5, 2023 12:01 am

Deltaville sits near the tip of Virginia’s Middle Peninsula on the Chesapeake Bay. (Sarah Vogelsong/Virginia Mercury)

The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation announced Friday additional recipients of $52 million in state flood resilience grants, including projects that will protect individual properties on the Middle Peninsula.

Also included among the awards was $25 million to the city of Norfolk for its floodwall and about $15 million for projects in Fairfax County. Richmond will receive over $7 million to help acquire Mayo Island in the James River. 

Mary-Carson Stiff, policy director for environmental nonprofit Wetlands Watch, said the Richmond acquisition can help prevent future development on land that’s at increasingly high flood risk.

“It is a really important tool,” Stiff said.

Directed toward the Middle Peninsula is a sum of about $2 million, including about $550,000 for resilience projects on private properties in the Mobjack Bay watershed, Piankatank/Moor Creek area and York River watershed. Those projects include the creation of living shorelines, which use natural materials such as plants, sand or rock to reduce erosion.

“By many estimates, between 95% and 98% of the Virginia coastal waterfront is privately owned, and it’s under great social, cultural, and financial duress due to flooding,” said Lewis Lawrence, executive director of the Middle Peninsula Planning District Commission. 

Rural areas flood differently than urban ones, he said, adding the funding is “a great start to a problem that isn’t going away any time soon.”

The $52 million comes from the Community Flood Preparedness Fund, which provides money for resilience projects to combat sea level rise and stormwater damage. 

Previously, DCR had stated the Flood Fund was intended to focus on community-scale projects rather than individual properties

But DCR Director Mathew Wells said by email Tuesday that although that priority continues, the grant manual does not prohibit funding from going to projects on privately owned properties. Projects on private properties can be eligible for funding if they are consistent with a locally adopted resilience plan like the Middle Peninsula Planning District Commission’s Fight the Flood program, he said.

“In the future, these types of projects may be supported from the Resilient Virginia Revolving Fund,” Wells stated. 

DCR intends to publish a revised manual that “will develop the distinctions between the two programs further” this year, he added.

Money for the Flood Fund comes from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cap-and-invest market where electricity producers pay to emit carbon. Proceeds from the purchases are returned to participating states, with Virginia funds going toward resiliency and low-income building weatherization efforts. 

The Department of Conservation and Recreation administers the fund, which by law receives 45% of Virginia’s RGGI proceeds and to date has netted over $200 million. 

The Resilient Virginia Revolving Loan Fund was created and seeded with $25 million in RGGI proceeds in 2022 as a self-sustaining alternative to the Flood Fund that would offer greater flexibility in providing assistance to individual property owners impacted by flooding.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin has proposed depositing $200 million into the revolving loan fund over the next two years. That could replace the revenues Virginia receives through RGGI if the state leaves the program, as Youngkin desires.

The most recent grant awards complete the third round of Flood Fund grants, which were initially intended to total $40 million.

However, after DCR received 64 applications asking for almost $93 million in assistance, the agency allowed dozens of applicants to revise their proposals and authorized additional spending.

“The awards released in December were the remaining applications that were under supplemental review,” said Wells. “We provided funding in this round for all qualifying projects that were submitted to the department.”

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Charlie Paullin
Charlie Paullin

Charles Paullin covers energy and environment for the Mercury. He previously worked for Northern Virginia Daily in the Northern Shenandoah Valley and for the New Britain Herald in central Connecticut. An Alexandria native, Charles graduated from the University of Hartford initially wanting to cover sports. He's received several Virginia Press Association awards for his coverage of crime, local government and state politics. Catch him in nature experiencing all the outdoors has to offer, and contact him at [email protected]

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