Category: Flooding

Business Leaders, Community Members Discuss Living with Water in Hampton Roads

WTKR – August 22, 2017 by Brendan Ponton

NORFOLK, Va. – Members of the business community, as well as local and state leaders discussed living with water in Hampton Roads during a forum on Tuesday morning.

“It’s time to act. The challenges are real. Coastal flooding is real,” said Del. Chris Stolle, a Republican from Virginia Beach. Part of that includes addressing sea level rise, aging infrastructure, and land shifting downward, he said. Stolle hopes addressing those issues will actually help the economy through innovation and adaptation. “Coastal flooding is a threat, but it’s also a really good opportunity.”

Participants discussed how coastal flooding impacts public services, local governments, and adapting to the water. “Instead of always fighting storm water, maybe learn how to use it to our benefit,” said Mike Fox, a local landscape architect.

 

Delegate Stolle Releases Ad Focusing on Sea Level Rise & Coastal Flooding

Commitment to Collaborative Approach to Addressing Adaptation

Virginia Beach, VA, August 17, 2017 – Delegate Chris Stolle, Chairman of the Joint Legislative Committee on Coastal Flooding released an ad today to raise awareness of an increasing threat to our community. Stolle said “We as a community and a state must work together to address an aging infrastructure, land subsidence and sea level rise. I believe our citizens have had their fill of political rhetoric. While debating the cause of coastal flooding makes great political fodder, I believe our citizens, the military, and business owners don’t want debate – that want action.”

Under Chairman Stolle’s leadership, the subcommittee has played a key role in advancing legislation aimed at adaptation, awareness, and innovation. The Joint Subcommittee on Coastal Flooding, made up of citizens members and members of the House and Senate from both sides of the political aisle, have successfully advanced legislative initiatives including the creation of the Commonwealth Center for Recurrent Flooding Resiliency – a collaboration of resources at ODU, William and Mary, the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, and others.

Delegate Stolle applauded Ed Gillespie for being the first Virginia gubernatorial candidate to develop a plan to focus on such a key issue and looks forward to the dialogue and community engagement continuing throughout the fall gubernatorial campaign.

Delegate Chris Stolle has been quoted many times as saying, “Water doesn’t care if you are a Republican or a Democrat.” “Our future depends on us learning to live with water, here in Hampton Roads and throughout the Commonwealth. The economic impact of recurrent flooding is felt throughout the state so we must have a statewide leader committed to finding solutions and working with our partners in local government, academia, business, and the military.”

Delegate Chris Stolle will be speaking at the inaugural Hampton Roads Resilience Forum produced by the Hampton Roads Chamber, InsideBiz and RISE Resilience Innovations and sponsored by Old Dominion University on August 22nd.

 

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2017 Virginia General Assembly Highlights

We commenced the 2017 General Assembly facing a $1.2 billion state budget shortfall and over 2,900 bills and resolutions to review.  I am pleased to report that after working tirelessly to strengthen Virginia’s economy to help middle class families, improve our education system so all children can succeed, and chart a responsible fiscal course for the future, we adjourned the 2017 General Assembly on time on Saturday.

In just 46 days we not only closed the budget shortfall, but also provided our valued state police, state employees and teachers with raises, passed major initiatives geared towards stimulating economic growth, improving education, making college more affordable and attacking the opioid crisis.  

I also carried several pieces of legislation and introduced budget amendments aimed at addressing our region’s need to adapt to flooding, provide mental health support for psychiatric patients, protect young children from substance abuse, restore inflation inpatient hospital payments to CHKD, and restore funds for care coordination for our senior citizens.

I continue to focus my efforts on offering a positive governing vision for our Commonwealth.  I have included a short summary of key highlights  by subject  to provide you with a  general session overview.  The General Assembly will reconvene on April 5th to take action on any budget item or bill amended or vetoed by the Governor.

We are now back in the district office, so please call my district telephone at (757) 633-2080 or email me at delcstolle@house.virginia.gov should you need assistance with a state agency or would like to share your thoughts on an issue.  I also invite you to connect with me on social media or visit my website at https://ChrisStolle.com.

It is an honor and a privilege to represent you in the House of Delegates.

Warm Regards,

 

The most important task of the General Assembly is crafting the two year state budget. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I can tell you that this session was especially challenging to pass a state budget that not closed the $1.2 billion shortfall, but also used your taxpayer dollars wisely by investing in the core functions of state government. I am happy to report that the House of Delegates passed a conservative, responsible, and structurally-balanced amended budget protects precious taxpayer resources and funds core services. Here are the highlights of the amended 2016-2018 state budget: - The budget does not contain any tax or fee increases on hardworking Virginians. - 3% salary increase for state employees - We are investing over $18 million in new funding for K-12 more than Governor McAuliffe proposed. Our funding also gives local school divisions added flexibility to spend the money as best fits them. - We’ve secured $32 million for a 2% teacher pay raise, with no local match required, effective February 2018. - We are providing over $20 million in new funding for higher education to hold down tuition costs for Virginia families. - We are making strategic investments in economic development, but adding additional oversight to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent wisely. - $32.2 million to strengthen the delivery of mental health services through the expansion of the GAP program, same day arrest, and supportive housing.

Improving our public education system is a top priority for the House of Delegates. We remain committed to supporting our world-class public education system. That is why a 2% teacher pay raise was a priority in this year’s budget. There is also room for innovation is the classroom so all students can learn in a way that best fits their needs. The House passed legislation to create Education Savings Accounts for parents and took steps to finalize the establishment of Virginia’s virtual school. This legislation, combined with our investments in public schools, will help make sure all children have the opportunity to succeed. While most Virginia students attend a good school, some are still being left behind. We are committed to maintaining Virginia’s strong K-12 system, and working to give all children the opportunities in education they deserve by enacting reforms in public education, promoting choice and flexibility, and encouraging early childhood education. Some of the education initiatives passed this session include: - Establishing the Virginia Virtual School to allow students to take K-12 coursework online that is not offered locally. - Awarding verified units of credit for a satisfactory score on the PSAT exam. - Allowing any individual who has obtained a valid out-of-state teachers license reciprocity with Virginia. - Awarding students partial credit for correct answers on multipart Standards of Learning assessment questions. - Establishing a policy for granting undergraduate general education course credit to any entering freshman student who has successfully completed a dual enrollment course. - Broadening eligibility for the Two-Year college Transfer Grant Program by including more low-income students. - Establishing the Online Virginia Network for the delivery of each online course, degree program, and credential program offered by a public institution of higher education.

To help strengthen Virginia’s economy, the House of Delegates advanced several major pieces of legislation aimed at fostering private-sector economic growth, promoting a positive, pro-business climate, and protecting small businesses through regulatory reform. We are also leading the effort to review Virginia’s economic development spending to ensure that we are maximizing the effectiveness of your tax dollars. Key jobs, opportunity and economic growth legislations passed includes: - Making changes to the Small Business Investment Grant Fund to make it easier for investor applicants to qualify for grants and provide more benefits for investor applicants. - Reducing the minimum percentage of revenues that a small business must derive from out-of-state services from 50% to 35% in order to be eligible for grants from the Small Business Jobs Grant Fund Program. - Granting localities authority to create economic revitalization zones to provide incentives to entities to purchase properties. - Reforming the Virginia Economic Development Partnership Authority to ensure the Commonwealth has an efficient economic development organization.

In December 2016, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC), a state watchdog agency, issued a report entitled “Managing Spending in Virginia Medicaid Program”. This JLARC report highlighted tens of millions of dollars spent unnecessarily on Medicaid, made 35 recommendations for improvements to Virginia’s Medicaid system, and confirmed that Medicaid is a broken system that needs reform. An overburdened Medicaid system results in lower quality care and access for patients. While we continue to reform our Medicaid system, we also passed legislation this session that creates a new innovative healthcare delivery model between patients and doctors that establishes direct primary care agreements. The House of Delegates also passed legislation to establish a uniform framework for determining the value of charity care and requires health care providers required to provide charity care or to contribute to the charity care fund to report their provider data to the Commonwealth.

Attracting and retaining public safety professionals is paramount to providing public safety to our citizens. Therefore, the budget includes $14.6 million to raise the starting salary of state police officers and provide a $6,793 increase to current state troopers. Sheriff's offices and regional jails are also allocated $7.3 million to provide a compression adjustment for employees. With more than 12 million people impacted by domestic violence each year and recidivism rates as high was 40% in some studies, the House of Delegates continued its commitment to empowering and protecting women. More than 36 pieces of legislation aimed at combatting domestic violence has been passed by the House of Delegates in the past 10 years. This session, legislation is also awaiting the Governor's signature that will give protective order protectees with a provisional concealed carry permit and will provide protective order protectees with firearms safety training courses. The passed budget also includes investments in providing crisis, trauma and advocacy services throughout the Commonwealth.

The Governor's proposed budget presented to the General Assembly in December 2016 omitted allocations that support both the district's and the entire region's citizens. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I introduced and advocated for budget amendments that: - Provide partial funding for the Commonwealth's share of a 3 x 3 x 3 study by the U.S. Corps of Engineers. The name stands for 3 years, $3 Million and 3 levels of Corps Review. Our Commonwealth had a number of authorized Corps Projects but now we don’t have any left, these 3x3x3 studies will make new recommendations for that the Commonwealth needs to gain federal funding for flooding projects. - Restores payment of an inflation adjustment in inpatient hospital payments to Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters (CHKD) in fiscal year 2018. - Restores funding for Care Coordination for the Elderly Virginians Program. The restoration of funds supports the Southeastern Senior Services Center and other programs throughout the Commonwealth. I carried two pieces of legislation aimed at combatting the opioid crisis. My resolution, HJ745, establishes the Substance-Exposed Infant Awareness week as the first week in July of each year to raise awareness of the impact of substance abuse on our youngest citizens. HB1786 provides family support and protection for infants who are believed to have been exposed to a controlled substance in utero. The bill provides that if a local department of social services receives a report or complaint of suspected child abuse or neglect on the basis of one or more of the aforementioned factors, the local department shall (a) conduct a family assessment, unless an investigation is required by law or is necessary to protect the safety of the child, and (b) develop a plan of safe care in accordance with federal law. The bill directs the State Board of Social Services to promulgate regulations to implement the provisions of the bill. I am pleased to report that the Governor sign HB1786 on February 23, 2017. I introduced HB1877 to provide hospital in-patient psychiatric patients with increased support for transitioning outside the emergency room environment. Requires the Board of Health to promulgate regulations that require each hospital that provides inpatient psychiatric services to establish a protocol that (i) requires, for any refusal to admit a medically stable patient referred to its psychiatric unit, direct verbal communication between the on-call physician in the psychiatric unit and the referring physician, if requested by the referring physician, and (ii) prohibits on-call physicians or other hospital staff from refusing a request for such direct verbal communication by a referring physician. To protect confidentiality, I introduced HB1840 at the request of the Department of Health. This bill states that the results of every test to determine infection with human immunodeficiency virus shall be confidential. Such information may only be released only persons or entities permitted or authorized to obtain protected health information under any applicable federal or state law. When a local coin dealer contacted me to ask me to introduce a bill that will allow Virginians Exempts legal tender coins whose total transaction sales price exceeds $1,000 from sales and use tax and extends from January 1, 2019, to June 30, 2022, the same exemption for gold, silver, or platinum bullion. This bill creates opportunity for Virginia to host much larger trade shows and helps Virginia's small business coin dealers much more competitive in our global economy. It is always especially meaningful to pass legislation that resolves an issue directly impacting constituents and to have constituents make the effort to come testify before committee hearings in Richmond. HB1796 places an end to an issue that has gone on for a few years that has create an impasse between watermen and homeowners. Certain oyster ground leaseholders in the Lynnhaven River are subject to the conduct of approved municipal dredging projects to restore existing navigation channels. The bill limits such projects to oyster grounds that are condemned, restricted, or otherwise nonproductive, and it requires the locality to compensate the lessee for the use of the ground. As the Chair of the General Assembly's Joint Subcommittee on Coastal Flooding, I assisted other members of the committee with advanced legislation that will assist the region in flooding adaption and will directly impact homeowners who take steps to adapt their property by taking steps to reduce their flood risk. My bill to create a Coastal Protection and Flooding Adaption Office advanced through the committee process but was re-referred to the Appropriations Committee to its limited fiscal impact. While I am disappointed that in this tight budget year, the bill was not advanced, I will continue my commitment and advocacy for a more flood ready Commonwealth.

Legislation to create Virginia coastal office gaining ground

Legislation that would create a new Cabinet-level position for coastal flooding and adaptation to better coordinate Virginia’s response to sea-level rise is making some headway during the General Assembly session.

The House version, by Del. Christopher P. Stolle, R-Virginia Beach, was reported out of the Committee on General Laws to the Appropriations Committee last week.

The companion Senate version, by Sen. Lynwood W. Lewis Jr., D-Accomack, was referred to the Senate Finance Committee.

The bills would create the secretary of coastal protection and flooding adaptation, an office designed to “be the lead in providing direction, ensuring accountability, and developing a statewide coastal flooding adaptation strategy,” as well as being responsible for identifying sources of funding for coastal protection projects, the legislation says.

“I think that (Hurricane) Matthew was a wake-up for a lot of us. A lot of the damage was done in areas that were not in flood zones,” Stolle said.

“We are at risk. We need a statewide approach to address this issue.”

As of Jan. 10, the National Flood Insurance Program had paid out $46.8 million to 2,263 claimants in Virginia as a result of the October hurricane, according to the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.

A study released in November by the College of William & Mary Law School’s Virginia Coastal Policy Center warned that sea-level rise driven by climate change eventually could cost the Hampton Roads region more than $100 million extra in damage and costs annually if no measures are taken to mitigate the risks of coastal flooding.

The office is estimated to cost the state $478,117 a year, including a $158,966 salary for the secretary, a $117,000 salary for a deputy secretary, and a $40,800 salary for an administrative assistant as well as $47,102 a year in expenses related to telecommunications, rent, supplies and other operating costs.

Lewis acknowledged the bill might be a “heavy lift” in a tight budget year but called it a necessary approach that other states facing coastal threats, including Louisiana and New Jersey, have adopted.

“We need a one-stop shop,” Lewis said.

Creating a Cabinet-level position is about more than just coordinating state-level response, said Col. Paul Olsen, former Norfolk district commander for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and now director of federal, commonwealth and municipal programs and partnerships at Old Dominion University, home to the Center for Sea Level Rise.

“It’s all about federal funding,” Olsen said, noting that states with just one office to interact with the federal government often are more successful than states that spread coastal concerns over various departments.

“They’re getting more than their fair share. We’re getting less. We’re trying to correct that,” Olsen said.

Hampton Roads pushes for cabinet position to address flooding

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) – Cities on Virginia’s coast want the state to create a new cabinet position to address flooding issues.

The Virginian-Pilot reports Republican Del. Chris Stolle plans to introduce legislation to establish a state resiliency officer. He or she would coordinate efforts to curb the impact of flooding. Currently, Secretary of Public Safety Brian Moran handles such issues.

In October, Hurricane Matthew caused $500 million in damage to Virginia’s Hampton Roads region, which includes Norfolk and Virginia Beach. More than 5,000 residents have applied for $8.6 million in federal aid.

Stolle’s legislation would be considered during a tight budget year. The state has to find a way to close a $1.26 billion gap.

Virginia Beach, Norfolk want the state to create a new position to deal with flooding

The Virginian Pilot – Mechelle Hankerson

Virginia Beach and Norfolk leaders are pushing the state government to address flooding issues by creating a new Cabinet position.

Del. Chris Stolle plans to introduce legislation to establish a state resiliency officer, whose duties would include coordinating resources and efforts to curb the impact of flooding across Virginia. Currently, Secretary of Public Safety Brian Moran handles flooding issues.
“I’m optimistic it will be passed, but it will be an uphill battle,” Stolle said.

The 2017 General Assembly session begins Jan. 11, three months after Hurricane Matthew soaked Hampton Roads. The storm didn’t make direct landfall, but it caused $500 million in damage. More than 5,000 residents – over half of them in Virginia Beach – have applied for $8.6 million in federal aid.

It’s not surprising to Hampton Roads residents that flooding has become a more urgent problem, Stolle said.

“For the rest of the population, it was a bit of a wake-up call,” he said of the storm’s timing.

Stolle’s legislation, which hasn’t been filed, will be considered during a tight budget year. The state has to find a way to close a $1.26 billion gap. Gov. Terry McAuliffe has suggested cutting funding to colleges and requiring other state departments to slash spending by 7.5 percent.

Del. Rob Bloxom, who represents parts of Norfolk, Virginia Beach and the Eastern Shore, said he doesn’t think this will be the year the state creates a resiliency officer position.

Money is too tight and there are too many other priorities, such as raises for law enforcement and other public employees, he said.

The idea for a resiliency officer came from the state’s Joint Subcommittee on Coastal Flooding, which was created in 2014. Stolle chairs the subcommittee, which includes Hampton Roads Sens. Frank Wagner and Mamie Locke as well as elected officials from the Northern Neck.

A resiliency officer would coordinate efforts to study flooding causes and mitigation and give the state an edge in receiving grants or federal money.

“You’ve got a lot of different people doing a lot of different things,” Bloxom said. “When you’re looking at federal money, a little bit of coordination would be beneficial.”

Emily Steinhilber column: Virginia’s leadership in flood resilience

Richmond Times Dispatch – December 26, 2016

This fall, Hurricane Matthew offered Virginians the latest reminder of the ongoing importance of flood resilience.

Even with federal support, including $120 million awarded to Virginia in the National Disaster Resilience Competition, strong local and state leadership remains the key to keeping Virginia’s citizens safe and businesses operating in the face of flooding.

The Commonwealth Center for Recurrent Flooding Resiliency represents the most recent example of the value of teamwork in responding to a critical threat.

With the leadership of Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Del. Chris Stolle, chairman of the General Assembly’s Joint Subcommittee on Coastal Flooding, and strong bipartisan support, the center was established in July.

It represents a partnership between Old Dominion University, the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) and William & Mary Law School’s Virginia Coastal Policy Center.

The center’s role is to provide technical and scientific support for flooding resiliency planning to localities, agencies and citizens across Virginia.

This work will increase the strength and vibrancy of our communities as they adapt to living with water.

Since ODU, VIMS and William & Mary are all in the natural flood-prone test-bed of Hampton Roads, no new facilities were needed.

In its first year, the center has hit the ground running on shorter-term projects and is laying the groundwork for longer-term initiatives to put tools, information and resources in the hands of a variety of public and private stakeholders.

Because the center exists independently of political subdivisions, the data, tools and lessons learned by one entity can easily be shared with others.

The Commonwealth Center for Recurrent Flooding Resiliency leverages the strengths of faculty researchers from the three institutions, who often work together. These are just a few examples:

  • Law students from William & Mary and researchers from Old Dominion are working with the tourism industry to assess policies and strategies to improve resilience in that vital sector.
  • Recognizing that this phenomenon goes beyond Hampton Roads, Old Dominion faculty will also identify flood hazards and vulnerabilities in parts of western Virginia that are subject to flash flooding.
  • VIMS has compiled state-of-the-art street-level storm-surge and water-level modeling data. This will be coupled with ODU’s stakeholder and communications expertise to develop risk communication and alert strategies, which will be used in concert with apps like Waze and Google Maps for extreme events like Hurricane Matthew as well as everyday occurrences of nuisance flooding.
  • VIMS faculty are coordinating with many partners, including Old Dominion, to develop comprehensive web tools for localities and citizens.

The center also is partnering with NASA to support research that will provide Hampton Roads localities with the first comprehensive localized data since the 1970s on subsidence, or the sinking of land, which is the other major contributor to recurrent flooding in the region. These spatial high-resolution estimates, based on satellite data, will pinpoint areas as small as 20 meters. They will allow decision-makers to fill critical gaps in knowledge and better inform planning.

The center builds on Old Dominion’s efforts, under President John R. Broderick’s initiative, to focus on flooding and sea level rise since 2010. Its creation provides a strong foundation for our proposal, supported by U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine and U.S. Rep. Scott Rigell, to create the National Center for Sea Level Rise, the first center of its kind in the country.

Meanwhile, we are committed to partnering with our leaders in Richmond and local partners throughout the commonwealth to build flood resilience and establish Virginia as a leader in the field.

Emily E. Steinhilber is an assistant research professor at Old Dominion University and coordinates the Commonwealth Center for Recurrent Flooding Resiliency.

Governor Signs Bill Establishing Commonwealth Center for Recurrent Flooding Resiliency

Old Dominion University – April 2016

RICHMOND – Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed a bill during an Earth Day ceremony April 22 officially creating the Commonwealth Center for Recurrent Flooding Resiliency, a joint venture of Old Dominion University, the College of William & Mary and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS).

HB903, a bill proposed by Del. Chris Stolle of Virginia Beach, will allow the planned center to proceed. It is envisioned as a one-stop shop for scientific, socioeconomic, legal and policy analyses to build Virginia’s flooding resiliency.

A total of $2 million in state support over the next two years for the new center was included in the state budget introduced by McAuliffe and ratified by the General Assembly.

“These institutions will work together to provide critical research, policy and outreach resources,” said McAuliffe, during a short address in the Patrick Henry Building adjacent to the capitol.

“Our budget includes nearly $2 million over the next two years to help get this center up and running. This collaboration will help us continue our progress in protecting our natural resources and creating resilient communities across the Commonwealth, both essential elements in our work to build a new Virginia economy.”

The center will leverage the strengths of Old Dominion and William & Mary-VIMS to provide support for state and local planners and decision-makers, and to help Virginia win critical federal funds to aid in training, technical services and outreach in the area of recurrent flooding and resilience research.

Stolle said the collaborative research taking place at ODU and the other local institutions is being followed far beyond Hampton Roads.

“The recognition and establishment of this center is testimony of the complexity of the impact of recurrent flooding,” Stolle said. “Hampton Roads is a microcosm of coastal areas nationwide. If we can find resiliency solutions to our flooding issues here in Hampton Roads and the Eastern Shore, similar strategies can be implemented nationwide. It’s absolutely essential we make this a collaborative effort. The entire nation is looking for us to come together and will benefit from the region working as a model to develop resiliency solutions.”

Morris Foster, Old Dominion University’s vice president of research, who attended the signing ceremony on behalf of the University, said the recognition by McAuliffe is significant.

“This bill and this center solidifies Old Dominion’s leadership in sea level rise and recurrent flooding research and mitigation,” Foster said. “It also is an important evolution of our ongoing partnership with William & Mary and VIMS in this area.”

The Earth Day event also featured the signing of SB282 – the Virginia Shoreline Resiliency Fund. Sponsored by State Sen. Lynwood Lewis, the bill allows the state to offer low-interest loans to help residents and businesses that are subject to recurrent flooding. Money from the fund may be used to mitigate future flood damage.

Va. Committee, Navy Concerned Over Rising Sea Levels

RICHMOND, Va. (WVIR) –

The world’s largest naval station is based in Virginia, and now experts are saying that critical operation is facing threats from a rising sea level.

The Joint Subcommittee to Study Recurrent Flooding held its final meeting in the state capitol this week.

Members will push for the panel to continue its work as it says there are many pressing concerns about Naval Station Norfolk to consider.

Navy Captain Pat Rios says the base in Norfolk expects a 2-foot sea level rise by 2050. He says the military is not wasting any time in preparing for that possibility, and reducing energy consumption.

“We live and operate around water, and so our operations are absolutely critical in Norfolk,” said Cpt. Rios.

Rios told the panel the two most vulnerable regions to sea level rise are in Louisiana and the Hampton Roads area. He attributes climate change and carbon emissions to the problem.

Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe and Republican lawmakers on this panel agree on finding ways to insulate Virginia.

“Hampton Roads is certainly a strategic national asset, and so we have to make sure that we protect the strategic assets, as well as our homes, and businesses, and lives,” said 83rd Delegate Chris Stolle (R).

Stolle, whose district includes Virginia Beach and is the panel’s chair, says he wants to see the General Assembly extend the life-span of this group.

They are putting together a report for next month in hopes of seeing legislation passed to combat flooding.

“I think it’s going to be really important that we identify those projects that are important to us here in Virginia. That we’re first on the list when money does become available to take in and fund some of those projects,” Stolle said.

The panel chairman said he thinks the federal government should be giving Virginia funds to deal with coastal flooding. He also believes buildings and zoning rules should get more attention.

Conference in Hampton focused on rising sea levels & flooding

WMUR – HAMPTON, N.H. 

Elected leaders from 18 states attended

Dozens of elected leaders were in Hampton on Saturday for a bipartisan conference on rising sea levels. 18 of the 23 coastal states were represented.

The group discussed what needs to be done to prevent significant damage from severe weather in the future.

State senator Nancy Stiles said flooding is an issue in Hampton. “Not only is it destroying the road, it’s destroying the marsh so we have to figure a way to actually come together and not make this such a partisan issue,” she said.

Officials said climate change is causing coastal flooding and higher sea levels. “We have to move beyond the question, is it real? It is real. The science is there. Climate change is happening,” said Mayor Donna Holaday, from Newburyport, Mass.

The administration of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was one of the speakers at Saturday’s conference at the Ashworth By The Sea hotel.

According to NOAA, flooding has increased on all three U.S. Coasts by more than 3005 since the 1960s.

“These are real intrusions into people’s homes,’ said NOAA Administrator Dr. Kathryn Sullivan. “These are real disruptions of businesses. These are real public safety and national defense disruption issues.”

Leaders in attendance said they’d like to see this issue discussed among presidential candidates. “The policies need to change at the federal level to support taking a comprehensive approach,” said Mayor Dawn Zimmer, from Hoboken, N.J.

To tackle the problem, organizers said funding and support is needed. “I think that it’s time we stop discussing what we need to do and start taking actions to protect our coastal communities. We as state and local governments need more assistance in doing that from the federal government,” said VA State Delegate Chris Stolle.

The conference wraps up Sunday.