Netherlands experts in town to advise on living with sea level rise

WAVY/Matt Gregory

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — It’s a big problem in many areas of Hampton Roads: Flooding. One of the causes, rising sea levels, is a subject people in the low-lying Netherlands know a lot about. So, this week scientists from that country are in Norfolk to help cities in Hampton roads come up with a plan to keep our neighborhoods dry.

“We have it on a nuisance sense right now because we’ve had some seal level rise, and then we have recurring flooding,” said Ron Williams, Norfolk’s deputy city manager. “But really what we are trying to do is make sure our land use and making sure Norfolk is viable to support the port and the naval station that are here in the future.”

The city of Norfolk knows a solution to cope with sea level rise won’t be easy, but the city made a friend in Europe that has experience with flooding: the Netherlands.

“They are experts in water management,” Williams said. “They are experts in living with water, actually below sea level. So, what we hope to do is learn from them.”

Friday morning started the “Dutch Dialogues”. It’s a five-day seminar that combines American and international experts in city planning with a focus on the future tide, for Norfolk, Hampton, and several other cities. Day one was all about “Virginia Life at Sea Level.”

“There are times you are going to need a levee and times you are gonna have to have a pump station and times where you’re gonna have to really work on protection,” said Dale Morris, of the Netherlands Embassy. “But there are other places, certainly in urban redevelopment zones, in flood plains along rivers, where you can embrace the water.”

The Dutch plan calls for using natural flood plains and basins to a city advantage for draining, focusing less on keeping out the water, and more on developing around it.

“The Dutch teams and some of the Americans, some local folks and some of the folks from New Orleans, they are gonna go look at the sites, walk the sites. They are going to touch the water, they are going to just do site visits,” Morris said.

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