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Virginia CZM Program: 2007 Coastal Grant Project Description and Final Summary

Project Task:



Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Project Title:

Estuarine Blue Infrastructure: Draft Priority Conservation Areas for Chesapeake Bay and its Tidal Tributaries and Back Bay

Project Description as Proposed:

Priority conservation and preservation targeting has, to date, largely focused on the terrestrial portion of the coastal landscape.  Concurrent work among various state agencies has successfully developed tools that identify important Green Infrastructure; where habitat fragmentation and loss are prevalent and where development presents the greatest threat to long-term sustainability of terrestrial living resources.  Within that body of research and development, we are better able to identify where to focus limited financial resources for land or easement acquisition.   We are also able to provide guidance to local governments to encourage development practices that minimize threats in the future. 

Our efforts in the estuarine ecosystem have lagged.  To date we have collated and generated a number of estuarine-based living resource inventories available in GIS to begin the process of extending priority conservation targeting into the “Blue” estuarine zone.  A CZM funded project several years ago created a Blue Infrastructure website at VIMS which identified and/or developed 26 different resource inventories and made them available through VIMS ( and subsequently Coastal GEMS (

This project will explore various data sources to develop a combined assessment for estuarine resource sensitivity in Chesapeake Bay and Back Bay (in the City of <st1:city w:st="on" style="font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; line-height: inherit;">Virginia Beach).   The project is motivated by several needs.  The first is to extend the effort that identifies priority conservation areas on the upland into the estuarine zone.   Recognizing that land use decisions on the upland affect water quality and habitat health in the estuarine environment, we would be remiss if we did not incorporate an assessment of important estuarine ecosystems which could be sensitive to land use decisions.  Other issues that motivate this project include: a desire to challenge local governments to plan for long-term preservation of estuarine and marine ecosystem services currently threatened by water front development, habitat conversion, and habitat loss due to climate change impacts.  Therefore, activities proposed in this scope of work will provide information that reports where current best available data indicate high ecosystem service potential (e.g. very important blue infrastructure) as well as a robust collection of estuarine living resources. 

The proposed project will use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and available data to create estuarine overlay districts of high sensitivity within Chesapeake Bay and its tidal tributaries and Back Bay. These regions will represent a varying degree of sensitivity based on the number of estuarine living resources identified within each one.  At this time, the scale of these districts has not been defined, but promises to be significantly better than watershed boundaries delineated within the 14 digit hydrologic units.  The smallest scalable unit, that meets the project goal and is consistent with complementary research and future endeavors, will be used.

Data will be reviewed and collected through a variety of sources that include, but are not limited to, CZM’s Coastal GEMS application, NOAA’s 2004 Environmental Sensitivity Index Atlas for Virginia, Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Division of Natural Heritage (DNH), Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF), the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, The Nature Conservancy, and the Chesapeake Bay Program.  Estuarine data are also found in the Center for Coastal Resources Management’s (CCRM) Blue Infrastructure tool.   

A cumulative sensitivity analysis will be performed which will analyze and report on areas that support the greatest number of living resource features.  Living resource features include species specific (e.g. blue crab) as well as habitat features (e.g SAV).  No attempt will be made at this time to rank areas in any manner other than by presence/absence of living resources.    The results will be archived in a geodatabase format.  Shape files will be generated to contribute to the growing number of data layers within Coastal GEMS.

Federal Funding:


Project Contact:

Marcia Berman; (804) 684-7188;

Project Status:

8/1/2009 - 12/31/2009; Project Completed

Final Product Received:

Estuarine Blue Infrastructure: Draft Priority Conservation Areas for Chesapeake Bay and its Tidal Tributaries and Back Bay: A Cumulative Resource Assessment (PDF)

Project Summary Provided by Grantee:

This project is an extension of earlier efforts within the coastal zone of Virginia to build a platform for enhanced Blue and Green Infrastructure planning. This project is motivated by an interest in extending statewide conservation efforts into estuarine systems and recognition that land use decisions on the upland effect water quality and habitat health in the receiving waters.

The project in its entirety has been accomplished in distinct parts. Part one, accomplished under this grant develops a Cumulative Resource Assessment to evaluate the distribution of aquatic natural resources within waters of Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay waters, Back Bay of Virginia Beach, Virginia, and the seaside of the Eastern Shore of Virginia.

The Cumulative Resource Assessment (CRA) was developed to define where clusters of aquatic natural resources exist within the tidal tributaries. The basis for a CRA is to collect and geographically juxtapose living resource data. Seventeen different data layers were used. The outcome of the CRA indicated areas where the maximum number of resources co-exists. The results indicated that no more than seven data themes co-existed in any one location within the study boundary. The results suggest areas of species and habitat diversity, however, they do not confirm that the most important or valuable resources exist within the given area.

Disclaimer: This project summary provides the federal dollars initially awarded to the grantee. Due to underexpenditure or reprogramming of grant funds, this figure may change. For more information on the allocation of coastal grant funds, please contact Laura McKay, Virginia Coastal Program Manager, at 804.698.4323 or

A more detailed Scope of Work for this project is available. Please direct your request for a copy


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Virginia Department of
Environmental Quality
P.O. Box 1105
Richmond, VA 23218
(804) 698-4000

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