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Virginia CZM Program: 2017 Coastal Grant Project Description and Final Summary

Project Task:VA CZM logo



Wetlands Watch 

Project Title:

The Community Rating System: Driving Adaptation in Coastal Virginia 

Project Description:

Wetlands Watch plans to accomplish the following projects to advance local use of the National Flood Insurance Program’s Community Rating System (CRS) in Virginia: (1) Analysis of Regional CRS Support Positions; (2) Data Needs Assessment & Funding Opportunities for Resiliency in Coastal Virginia Localities; (3) List of CRS Program Recommendations to Benefit Coastal Localities; (4) Cost-Benefit Analysis & Marketing of the CRS as Resilience Tool in Coastal Virginia. These projects will help advance the visibility of the CRS program in coastal Virginia and will help local governments embrace the CRS as a way to promote and achieve resilience in their communities. The CRS has the power to incentivize revisions to local ordinances, adopted plans, and policies; the successful policy updates in one locality are easily replicated in another if the modifications are marketed in an effective way.

Enrolling and succeeding in the CRS program requires allocation of significant local government staff time and resources that many communities cannot afford. Project 1 seeks to address this problem of lack of resources by exploring the concept of a full-time regional CRS Coordinator, who would manage the CRS programs of multiple jurisdictions.

As communities develop resiliency plans and policies in coastal Virginia, data gaps reportedly continue to present road blocks to implementation. Compiling a list of these data needs from community stakeholders will help prioritize the allocation of funding when project funds become available in the coastal region. In addition to data gaps, coastal communities face funding gaps to complete projects. Project 2 will include a list of data needs and potential funding streams to help create a streamlined process for linking projects with future funding.

The CRS is a complicated program and at times there is significant disconnect between its administration and organization and how local government staff manage the programs that qualify for credit. Additionally, many activities that promote resilience at the local government level do not qualify for credit under the CRS program. Project 3 will include a list of recommendations for how to improve the CRS program so it benefits local governments in coastal Virginia.

The costs and benefits of participating in the CRS Program are of great interest to local governments in coastal Virginia. Many communities considering participation are apprehensive of the time and resource commitment of joining and those communities already enrolled face challenges during comprehensive program reviews, which occur every 5 years. Project 4 will update a cost benefit analysis project undertaken by Wetlands Watch with any pertinent information learned in the time after project completion.

Wetlands Watch is leading the movement to champion CRS as a policy and planning tool to help Virginia’s coastal localities adapt to increased flooding and sea level rise. The CRS is at the intersection of nearly every planning and policy decision related to sea level rise resilience, mitigation, and adaptation. Identifying and effectively communicating the overlapping strategies and multiple benefits of participation in the program is critical to growing adaptive communities in the Commonwealth. Mary-Carson Stiff, Wetlands Watch Director of Policy, Chairs the Coastal Virginia CRS Workgroup, serving as a convener, curriculum developer, technical advisor, and FEMA liaison for member localities and other entities. In addition to providing these regional services, Wetlands Watch is using existing and growing relationships with decision makers at the national level to offer recommendations on how the CRS program could improve to match the resilience efforts implemented at the local level. Wetlands Watch’s relationship with FEMA continues to grow, garnering the organization a strong reputation in the field and increased credibility. 

Federal Funding:


Project Contact:

Mary-Carson Stiff, 757.376.1364;  

Project Status:

10/1/2017 - 9/30/2018; Project Completed  

Final Product:

Improving the Community Rating System (CRS) Program - Recommendations from the Coastal CRS Communities & Stakeholders (PDF)

Building Coastal Resilience in Virginia - Data Needs Assessment & Funding Resources Review (PDF)

Capacity Building in the NFIP Community Rating System - Viability of Regional CRS Support Positions in Virginia (PDF)

Project Summary:

Product 1: Analysis of Regional CRS Support Positions

Publication Title: Capacity Building in the National Flood Insurance Program’s Community Rating System: Viability of Regional Support Positions in Virginia

Publication Abstract: Wetlands Watch examined establishing cross jurisdictional CRS technical assistance in VA. The report does the following: (1) outlines stakeholder feedback on how a cost-share position could work in VA, (2) summarizes a CRS Finance Strategies Workshop, convened by VA Sea Grant, where a panel of academic exerts offered recommendations for financing CRS technical assistance in VA, and (3) distributes a College of William & Mary graduate student report that looks how localities implement the CRS across the country, focusing on financing and technical assistance.

Publication Distribution: The report is linked on the Wetlands Watch website and will be distributed via newsletters.

Product 2: Data Needs Assessment & Funding Opportunities for Resiliency

Publication Title: Building Coastal Resilience in Virginia: Data Needs Assessment & Financing Resources Review

Publication Abstract: Wetlands Watch interviewed stakeholders engaged in resilience work in coastal Virginia to determine what information/data is needed to better build resilience and what funding resources are currently being used or underutilized to finance this important work. The content of these interviews is identified in the report.

Publication Distribution: The report is linked on the Wetlands Watch website and will be distributed via newsletters.

Product 3: CRS Program Recommendations to Benefit Coastal Localities

Publication Title: Improving the Community Rating System (CRS) Program: Recommendations from Coastal CRS Communities & Stakeholders

Publication Abstract: Wetlands Watch interviewed coastal CRS communities in VA and across the country to identify CRS Program recommendations to assist coastal communities to succeed in the CRS. Concerns range from administrative burdens to activity specific recommendations and include commentary about urban v. rural CRS communities.

Publication Distribution: The report is linked on the Wetlands Watch website and will be distributed via newsletters.

Product 4: Cost-Benefit Analysis Follow Up

Project Abstract: Wetlands Watch generated more accurate benefit cost ratios for interested CRS communities and included a disclaimer at the end of the previously written The Costs & Benefits of the CRS Program in Virginia report, noting the estimated salary does not include employee benefits and the limitations of not attaching monetary value to the secondary benefits of CRS Program participation. Wetlands Watch presented the FY16 funded report at several workshops across the state and at the Association of State Floodplain Managers (ASFPM) national conference in June 2018. 

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 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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