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Virginia CZM Program: 2016 Coastal Grant Project Description and Final Summary

Project Task:VA Coastal Zone Management Program logo



Northern Virginia Regional Commission

Project Title:

Northern Virginia’s Roadmap to Resilience

Project Description:

Northern Virginia will experience a variety of impacts related to climate change such as an increased risk of damaging storm-surge events, rising sea levels, longer heat waves, heavy precipitation events, flash flooding,  and other extremes. The predicted combination of impacts will put valuable infrastructure, property and large numbers of people at risk, particularly in low lying areas such as Old Town Alexandria and parts of Fairfax and Prince William Counties. Impacts from flooding can range from temporary road closures to the damage or loss of homes, businesses, property and life. Flooding problems are linked to water bodies and therefore often transcend locality boundaries.  In coastal Virginia, the cost of large storm damage can range from millions to hundreds of millions of dollars per storm. With a long history of flooding from strong storms, the Northern Virginia region needs to identify vulnerable areas and plan appropriate adaptation strategies to reduce the impact of future climate and storm-related events.

The Virginia Institute of Marine Science has recommended that coastal localities in Virginia begin comprehensive and coordinated planning efforts; initiate identification, collection, and analysis of data needed to support effective planning for response efforts. Since climate change is a global problem, communities must work together to share tools for assessing and managing climate change impacts, and help build their capacity to respond.

The Virginia Institute of Marine Science has also reviewed global flood management strategies and concluded that it is possible for Virginia to develop effective flood responses.  However, these efforts may take 20 to 30 years to effectively plan and implement.

In order for communities in Northern Virginia to plan for and invest in climate adaptation and resiliency initiatives, they need to fully understand how climate change will affect their infrastructure, environment, economies, and residents. The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy focused attention on the importance of highly advanced resiliency planning across the United States.  The products of these planning experiences included several national tools and models to assist with forecasting hazards and providing recommendations concerning adaptation to climate change.  These tools include the Nature Conservancy’s Coastal Resilience, SLOSH, FEMA-HAZUS.  These pioneering initiatives serve as excellent examples suitable for equivalent regional resiliency planning along Virginia’s coastal zone. 

The funding requested in this proposal addresses the CZMP Goal of planning for Coastal Resiliency. Building upon the previous data produced for the Sustainable Shorelines and Community Management Project conducted in FY10, NVRC technical staff will utilize the latest tools available to provide the data at a scale necessary to perform comprehensive coastal resiliency planning and inform future management, policies and practices within and across the 14 jurisdictions of Northern Virginia as part of the first Northern Virginia Climate Resiliency Roadmap.  Since Northern Virginia is closely integrated into the Washington Metropolitan Region, NVRC proposes to align this effort with parallel resiliency and climate adaptation planning efforts undertaken by the National Capitol Planning Commission, Washington Metropolitan Council of Governments and Washington D.C. through coordination and technical transfers of information.

The goals of this project are  to 1) Identify  and  assess  the  effects  of  climate  change  on  the  natural and built environment of the Northern Virginia coastal zone; 2) Identify the policy framework surrounding climate change planning and adaptation; 3) Determine how to integrate  climate  change  considerations  into local plans and policies; 4) Identify methods to and techniques to manage  associated risks; and 5) Collaborate with multiple stakeholders on  developing a response for the region.

The specific objectives that will be accomplished through this scope of work are: 1) bring together technical and policy experts from across the region to discuss the need for a long-term and sustainable regional climate adaptation roadmap; 2) form an interdisciplinary collaborative workgroup to guide plan development and implementation; 3) develop planning scenarios based on best-available and current scientific models; and 4) develop an outcome oriented strategic climate resiliency roadmap.

The completed project will culminate in a comprehensive Roadmap that emphasizes communication, coordination, and proactive preparation so that integrated strategies can be developed across the political jurisdictions of the region while implemented by numerous players.

Federal Funding:


Project Contact:

Corey Miles, 703.642.4625,

Project Status:

10/1/16 - 9/30/17; Project Completed

Final Product:

Planning for Climate Resilience Critical Infrastructure in Northern Virginia (PDF)
For more information on this Final Product, please contact April Bahen at

Project Summary:

Product #1: Resiliency Planning for Northern Virginia Forum

The Northern Virginia Regional Commission convened a one-day workshop focused on the development of a climate adaptation roadmap for Northern Virginia.  Speakers included the Mayor of Alexandria, the Executive Director of NVRC, and the Director of Environmental Programs at MWCOG. The workshop brought together approximately 70 technical and policy experts from Northern Virginia’s governmental (federal, state, regional and local), research and non-governmental climate communities in a facilitated group discussion devoted to:

  • Framing current core economic, environmental, scientific and regulatory challenges concerning climate resiliency planning in Northern Virginia; and,
  • Identifying and outlining core opportunities and activities for meaningful climate adaptation planning in the region.

The major outcome was the formation of the Northern Virginia Climate Resiliency Team; a multi-disciplinary group of stakeholders who committed to work together under the direction of NVRC to develop a regional roadmap for resilience.

Product #2: Northern Virginia Climate Resiliency Team

NVRC created and coordinated interested stakeholders and formed a Climate Resiliency Team for Northern Virginia.  This team/workgroup was comprised of individuals representing different types of institutions in Northern Virginia (i.e. academic, non-governmental, and state, regional, and local governmental) and different frames of reference such as coastal planning, community development, education, emergency management, natural resource management, research, urban planning, and public works.

NVRC coordinated and facilitated five meetings to define the scope and planning horizon of the Roadmap and identify priority issues and capacity gaps associated with climate change and coastal hazards that need to be addressed in the Roadmap. The presentations from these meetings are posted on the NVRC website at

Product #3: Trans-Atlantic Applied Research Climate Adaptation Partnership

To capitalize on the momentum generated by the Resiliency Forum in November, NVRC partnered with the Humboldt Foundation to host a scientist from the Leibniz Institute in Germany that looked at the suitable transfer and adoption of climate adaptation innovations from the Baltic Sea region to the Chesapeake. Dr. Gerald Schernewski of the Leibniz Institute spent a week in the US meeting scientists from Gulf Research Program at Keck Center of the National Academies, Chesapeake Bay Program, University of Maryland, VIMS, College of William and Mary, Old Dominion University, and George Mason University. Outcomes include technical transfers of information among the two regions and identification of new international applied research opportunities.

Product #4: Northern Virginia Climate Resilience Roadmap

NVRC worked with the stakeholders from the Climate Resilience Team to develop a Northern Virginia Climate Resilience Roadmap.  The “Roadmap” is a project management tool that is the first step of a very complex and comprehensive effort to define overarching strategic objectives and capture the major steps planned for implementing and achieving those objectives. This Roadmap outlines a framework of actions that is meant to create strategic approach to planning for resilience in the critical infrastructure in Northern Virginia.  Through understanding our interlinked hazards and risks and fostering strong regional collaboration, we can identify meaningful actions to move forward.  The roadmap is a high-level planning tool that essentially presents a starting framework from which more in-depth planning and implementation studies can follow. The scope of the “Roadmap” is limited to building resilience of critical infrastructure sectors in Northern Virginia to projected climate stressors of heat, precipitation, and sea level rise over an 80 year planning horizon. This roadmap will serve as the basis for the next step of the process which includes development of an implementation strategy. 

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 or


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

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