$112M flood resilience project breaks ground in Norfolk
Ohio Creek Watershed effort is funded with 2016 HUD grant.
Gov. Ralph Northam and Norfolk Mayor Kenneth Cooper Alexander broke ground Friday on the Ohio Creek Watershed project, aimed at protecting two Norfolk neighborhoods from flooding due to sea-level rise.
The project will include the new Resilience Park, which will connect the historic Grandy Village and Chesterfield Heights neighborhoods, as well as a flood berm, a restored tidal creek and wetland, and a multiuse sports field. Funding for the $112 million project comes from a $120.5 million grant awarded to Virginia in 2016 by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The project is expected to be complete by April 2023, said the city’s chief resilience officer, Doug Beaver. The HUD grant ends in September 2022, and much of the work will be finished by then, he added. Over the past three years, the city of Norfolk has worked with community members and other stakeholders to design the watershed project, as well as assessing its environmental impact.
The goal is to design a coastal community that is resilient to flooding, including the addition of pump stations, tide gates, road improvements, pervious pavement and other water retention strategies to improve Norfolk’s storm water system. The project also includes restoration of wetlands, a coastal berm and living shorelines to control flooding.
Chesterfield Heights has more than 400 houses on the Historic National Register and is listed as a national historic district. Historically it was a middle- and low-income African American community that was built starting in 1915 on the Elizabeth River south of Norfolk State University. Grandy Village, adjacent to Chesterfield Heights, includes a public housing community with more than 300 homes.
“Our climate is changing, and it is affecting our coastal areas with more intense hurricanes and storms and more frequent tidal flooding,” Northam said in a statement. “The Ohio Creek Watershed project is an example of the kind of work we need to do to protect lives, property and economic opportunity in Hampton Roads, and the innovation that will help us build a safer, more sustainable and resilient Virginia for future generations.”
HUD also allocated $5.25 million of the larger grant to support RISE, a nonprofit based in Norfolk to provide resources to businesses to develop flood resilience solutions for the region. Last April, Northam announced $1.5 million in funding for six businesses to create products, services and workforce programs to address climate change as part of RISE’s Coastal Community Resilience Challenge.
This year’s $2 million contest is accepting $250,000 project proposals through March 16 for the following categories: flood management, data analytics, protection of buildings, re-establishing critical utilities and reconnecting neighborhoods. RISE has set a deadline of April 1 for proposals dealing with urban mobility.
Virginia Beach also is addressing sea-level rise at a city level. Fairfax-based engineering consulting firm Dewberry has worked with the city’s public works department to develop long-term plans to combat risks and address expected effects of water rise in the city, releasing a report in January. Proposals being discussed include construction of flood gates, expanded seawalls and new levee systems. City Council is considering offering to purchase 2,500 homes to protect the city from flooding.