FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – December 3, 2013
NORFOLK – Delegate Christopher P. Stolle (R-Virginia Beach) and Senator Mamie E. Locke (D-Hampton) today announced the introduction of a legislative resolution creating a joint Senate and House subcommittee fostering the development of a comprehensive and coordinated flood mitigation action plan. The proposed joint committee implements a recent Virginia Institute of Marine Science recommendation that the Commonwealth intervene to assist regions and communities attempting to manage recurrent flooding. VIMS is part of the College of William and Mary. The resolutions (HJR16 And SJR3) will be considered during the 2014 session of the Virginia General Assembly scheduled to convene on Wednesday, January 8.
Stolle and Locke’s proposal comes on the heels of Super-Storm Sandy, October 2012, and recognizes the importance of developing and implementing a coordinated statewide planning effort addressing severe and ongoing flooding events as well as a major event like Sandy. Several nations and Mid-Atlantic States have undertaken similar planning efforts; Stolle’s and Locke’s legislation ensures that the Commonwealth undertakes important planning initiatives. Speaking about the announcement, Senator Locke said, “Water doesn’t recognize boundaries. As a former Mayor, I know that our regions and localities require statewide planning assistance. Although I live and work in Hampton Roads, ground-zero for recurrent flooding, our planning efforts must assist the entire Commonwealth.”
Delegate Stolle added, “We have all seen the destruction that can be caused by major hurricanes or our frequent Nor’easters. We can no longer simply hope and pray that our lives and property will be
spared; it is time to plan and prepare. This Joint Subcommittee will ensure that the Commonwealth begins to develop and implement a comprehensive strategy to protect both our citizens and our property. I am committed to bringing all interests, including business and military, to the planning table with the focus on protecting lives and property.”
Although the consequences of a severe storm may provide the impetus for this work, recurrent flooding threatens many areas of the Commonwealth. Virginians from across the state regularly battle recurring flooding resulting from specific events including major rain storms and storm surges. The VIMS review of global flood management strategies suggests that it is possible for Virginia to have an effective response to increasing flood issues but it takes time, estimated at 20-30 years, to effectively plan and implement many of the adaptation strategies. They include planning, management, and engineering strategies, such as infrastructure projects like hard barriers and other natural systems to protect coastal communities.
As proposed, the joint subcommittee, comprised of Senate and House members, will meet for two years and will be comprised of 15 members: eight legislative and seven non-legislative. The non-legislative members include three business leaders, two local officials representing flood-prone communities, one military official representing a federal installation and a member of the environmental community.
Governor Robert F. McDonnell’s Secure Commonwealth Panel established a Recurrent Flooding Subpanel last spring. Comprised primarily of technical and operational experts from federal, state and regional agencies, academia, and local levels, the panel is housed in the cabinet Office of Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security. The proposed legislative committee will work closely with the panel to develop and implement short and longer-term flood mitigation strategies. Senator John C. Watkins (R-Powhatan) and Jim Redick, the City of Norfolk’s Director of Emergency Preparedness and Response, co-chair the panel. Speaking of Senator Locke’s and Delegate Stolle’s announcement, Senator Watkins said, “This legislation is an important step to ensure that the Commonwealth is working diligently to protect people, property and livelihoods.”
Earlier today, the Virginia Housing Study Commission, comprised of business and government leaders endorsed the pending legislation. Michael L. Toalson, Chief Executive Officer of the Home Builders Association of Virginia and a member of the Commission stated, “My members welcome the opportunity to work with the Commonwealth and businesses to prepare for major flooding events. A major storm will negatively impact millions of Virginians and has the potential to displace untold number of homeowners.”
Senator Locke chairs the Virginia Housing Study Commission.