As the Tidewater region dodges Florence, bills to curb flooding in Va. keep dying in Richmond

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VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — The massive flooding across North Carolina offers two reminders to our area: the power of Mother Nature, and the reality that it could very well happen here during a hurricane or tropical storm.

There’s a legislative pitch to do something about flooding in coastal parts of Virginia, but bills have been dying in the General Assembly.

A Virginia Beach delegate wants to create a partnership between the state and the federal government to reduce the risk of flooding. He wants the Army Corp of Engineers to help design flooding risk reduction projects, but it appears his plan is a tough sell in the General Assembly.  

“I think it is a little bit out of sight, out of mind,” says Delegate Jason Miyares (R) of the 82nd District, explaining why his legislative bill to reduce hurricane risk has now died twice in the General Assembly. 

Last year on September 13, 2017, 10 On Your Side spoke with him about what his bill would do, “We could go to the Army Corps of Engineers, and say ‘give us your five hurricane and flooding risk reduction projects that you need to be done right now’.”

Today Miyares says, “Look, Republican and Democrat, too many of them think this is a local issue or a federal issue. They don’t realize this is a Virginia issue.”

The picture of what Virginia Beach would look like after a Category 3 hurricane is bleak.  Massive flooding over much of the city, and the Category 3 hasn’t happened here here since 1944.   

Miyares says the General Assembly’s failure to get a flooding plan could affect the financially precious  bond ratings, which could impact Virginia’s ability to borrow money, have become more of an issue. 

“They are looking at this and they are thinking we are going to downgrade your bond rating, which you know affects everything we do at the state level as far as our borrowing.”

Norfolk Councilwoman Andria McClellan: “I think we as a region, we need to come together as a region and get our delegation to focus on a few bills and get those passed.” 

10 On Your Side also met with McClellan a year ago and she said then, “our issue is stormwater infrastructure.  We have old stormwater pipes that are now are being covered with water.”   

10 On Your Side watched last year’s report with McClellan, “We are doing a lot with infrastructure and stormwater, and if we were having our council retreat today and tomorrow we would have been discussing the stormwater issue.”

As Florence roared ashore,  Miyares says here in Virginia there have been no major new infrastructure projects like seawalls, irrigation projects, drainage improvement projects, and also noted a coastal resiliency authority that died in the General Assembly.

McClellan says Norfolk has been making strides to improve readiness, “We just passed what is called the most resilient building code in America, and we have a new coastal resilience revolving fund, but the problem with that while the revolving fund got passed there is no money in the fund so it is an empty vessel.”

As for Miyares, “we are taking some baby steps, but we need to take some big steps to get ahead of the storm. We are sitting ducks. We have gone another year and dodged another bullet.”

Delegate Miyares plans to resubmit his bill again in January. 

There is good news, Virginia is about to name a new Assistant to the Governor on Coastal Adaptation, and there will be a constitutional amendment in November on tax breaks for people who improve property to fight off flooding.

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