From space, ODU researchers can see Hampton Roads sinking
February 17, 2021

Douglas Beaver, Chief Resilience Officer in Norfolk, Va. in the historic neighborhood of Chersterfield Heights. Photographer: Greg Kahn for Bloomberg Green

To Fight Flooding, This City Plans to Renovate—and Retreat

By Leslie Kaufman
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When it rains in Norfolk, Va., the residents of the Chesterfield Heights and Grandy Village neighborhoods worry about getting cut off from the rest of the city. That’s because with a highway on one side and the Elizabeth River on the other, the two predominantly Black neighborhoods have only two main arteries in and out—and flooding routinely blocks one of them.

It wasn’t always like this, but a combination of sea-level rise and more intense precipitation caused by global warming has transformed what was once a nuisance into something scary. So Norfolk decided to act. With help from a $112 million federal grant, the neighborhoods are getting a makeover that includes a tidal gate, restored wetlands, and a park that serves as a stormwater retention area. The city is hoping the area will be a model for coping with the climate challenges to come.

The man overseeing the project is Norfolk’s Chief Resilience Officer Douglas Beaver. He’s charged with figuring out how to defend the city from the worst impacts of climate change. Norfolk is experiencing the fastest sea-level rise on the U.S. East Coast, with a projected increase of roughly 1.5 feet by 2050, the city estimates.

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