Va. lawmakers to introduce bill to help combat sea level rise, recurrent flooding

Chopper 10 captures overhead video of disastrous flooding in North Carolina on Oct. 24, 2016, caused by Hurricane Matthew.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WAVY) — Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, along with Congressman Bobby Scott, plan to introduce a bill to establish a competitive grant program for resilient infrastructure investment.

The lawmakers say the legislation — called the Building Up Infrastructure and Limiting Disasters through Resilience (BUILD Resilience) Act — will help regions like Hampton Roads to implement projects and strategies to reduce vulnerability to threats like sea level rise and recurrent flooding.

With a range from one and a half to seven feet of sea level rise projected by the year 2100, the Hampton Roads region is the second largest population center at risk from sea level rise in the nation, behind only New Orleans.

Analyses by the Congressional Budget Office and the Multihazard Mitigation Council of the National Institute of Building Sciences estimate that every $1 invested in resilient infrastructure upfront saves $3 to $4 in future losses on the back-end after a major disaster strikes.

“Walking around Norfolk, you can already see the very real effects of climate change as streets and buildings regularly flood at high tide. We have to help places like Hampton Roads proactively protect against the challenges posed by sea level rise,” said Warner. “This legislation will provide additional resources to encourage communities to prepare now for future storms and other extreme weather caused by climate change.”

The BUILD Resilience Act is modeled after the National Disaster Resilience Competition (NDRC), authorized in the 2013 Sandy emergency supplemental bill to help communities improve their ability to withstand and recover from future disasters. Through this competition, the Commonwealth was awarded $120.5 million for resilience projects in Norfolk — the third largest grant of the entire program behind New Orleans and New York City. Newport News and Chesapeake also applied for NDRC grants, but fell short due to limited available funding.

The BUILD Resilience Act would address the need for greater investment by providing $1 billion per year over the next five years for infrastructure resilience. Kaine and Warner will introduce the bill in the Senate and Scott will introduce the same legislation in the House.