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Virginia CZM Program 2010 Coastal Grant Project Description and Final Summary

Project Task:



Northern Neck Planning District Commission

Project Title:

Northern Neck Blue-Green Infrastructure Protection

Project Description as Proposed:

In two counties on the Northern Neck, green infrastructure maps were included in the draft Comprehensive Plans. These draft comprehensive plans have not been finalized, and the NNPDC plans to support the green infrastructure elements when these plans are opened to the public for comments. There has been much animated discussion by the public on private property rights and citizen backlash from proposing any new areas for open space/habitat protection/water quality protection. NNPDC will be present at County public meetings to support the inclusion of the green infrastructure components in Richmond and Westmoreland Counties' Comprehensive plan. In Northumberland and Lancaster Counties, the comprehensive plan is not under review, and the green infrastructure effort has been focused on creating a map of green infrastructure elements within the county. NNPDC staff will work with the four Counties of the Northern Neck to produce a report on strategies to help them to begin implementing their Green Infrastructure Plans. Various strategies will be explored, from overlay districts, and cluster housing to conservation easements and agricultural and forestal districts. The report will explore the benefits, level of effort required and any disadvantages of the approach. The Green Infrastructure Implementation Plan will examine all known alternatives under current Virginia law that could be used for preserving lands in a natural state. In addition, NNPDC staff will work with the counties to examine climate change in the Northern Neck and the effects it could have on blue and green infrastructure assets. The report will also address potential impacts to development and gray infrastructure and the potential secondary impacts to coastal resources as development patterns change. A report will be generated for each county with maps showing vulnerable assets (both natural and manmade) that could be subject to inundation in the future. While strategies to mitigate against rising waters will be discussed, the more important issue of not locating any more infrastructure in threatened areas will be emphasized.

Federal Funding:


Project Contact:

Stuart McKenzie - 804.333.1900:

Project Status:

10/1/2010 - 9/30/2011; Project Completed

Final Product Received:

Northern Neck Conservation Corridor Planning Outreach: Green Infrastructure Implementation Alternatives and Climate Change Vulnerable Infrastructure Assessment (pdf)

Project Summary Provided by Grantee:

The third year of the VACZM focal area, Blue-Green Infrastructure Planning, NNPDC staff researched the tools available to Virginia localities under current law to implement natural area protection within their jurisdictions. Since Virginia is a Dillon Rule state, only powers expressly given to localities by the Virginia General Assembly can be utilized. NNPDC staff compiled all known ways to protect natural areas in a report entitled " "NNPDC Green Infrastructure Implementation Alternatives Report, Tools Available to Virginia Localities to Protect Green Infrastructure". The tools available include everything from land use value taxation to transfer of development rights, and the report has a table that gives a priority rank, ease of implementation, and advantages and disadvantages for each protection tool. A presentation on the report was given to each of the four Northern Neck Counties’ Planning Commission's in late 2011 and early 2012, with several commission members noting that some of the tools available were not known to them.

NNPDC staff conducted a Climate Change Vulnerable Infrastructure Assessment for each of the four counties, examining areas in the region that have potential to be impacted by sea level rise. Sea level rise in the Northern Neck region has been documented through NOAA tide stations at Gloucester Point, Lewisetta and Colonial Beach. Lewisetta, in fact, has the second highest sea level rise of any tide station in Virginia, at 4.97 mm per year, which equates to 1.63 feet in one hundred years. While the elevation data available to estimate this rise has a vertical  error of more than the 100 year rate of sea level rise, NNPDC staff believe that the areas identified in the study are truly vulnerable (as many of the areas have had inundation in recent tropical storms). NNPDC staff cautions that the study is not be used at a site specific level, but instead, at a county scale to identify regions in the county where sea level rise could impact upland resources. NNPDC staff examined sea level rise impacts on green infrastructure, using the VACZM's Virginia Ecological Valuation Assessment (VEVA) as well as select grey infrastructure (water access points, sewage treatment plants and private structures). NNPDC staff found that Richmond County has the highest amount of green infrastructure (as shown in the VEVA layer) that is vulnerable and that Westmoreland County has the least amount of green infrastructure vulnerable. Another important finding of the study is that of the five categories of natural areas (in increasing ecological value: general, moderate, high, very high and outstanding), that the very high valued ecological areas are impacted the most by sea level rise in the four counties. This is disconcerting, however, not unexpected. The land water interface is often the most biologically diverse habitat in nature. NNPDC staff also examined impacts on select grey infrastructure and found that all tidal water access points could be impacted in some way, although most may still be functional, though at a diminished capacity. The study found that the Northern Neck sewage treatment plants all seem to be at a high enough elevation that they will not be impacted within the next one hundred years of sea level rise predicted. NNPDC staff also presented the results of the two sea level rise studies to each of the four Northern Neck county Planning Commissions. The most common question asked was what can be done about sea level rise? NNPDC staff noted that while sea level rise adaptation can be expensive, planning beforehand can save money in the long run, by locating structures outside of inundation zones on higher elevations. NNPDC staff also noted that sea level rise may inundate a majority of Virginia's wetlands, and that by promoting living shorelines in their county, marshes can have a chance to migrate upland as sea level rises in areas protected by living shorelines.

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 email:

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

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

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