Cost of Change Part 1: Virginia Beach residents will determine fate of plan to mitigate flooding

Virginia Beach

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — The City of Virginia Beach has a plan in place to mitigate the effects of climate change, but how fast that plan is completed will come into the hands of the residents in the upcoming general election this November.

Over the last two decades, the conversation about climate change has changed. More of us are talking about it — whether it’s the temperatures, droughts or hurricanes. And across Hampton Roads, Hurricane Matthew was the wake up call.

But with the rate at which our climate is changing, extreme events are no longer the only piece of evidence. Our weather is just weirder. Think of climate as our personality and weather as our mood. The weather, just like our mood, changes all the time. But when our personality, like climate, begins to change, those mood swings become more frequent.

“The jet stream is meandering all over the place, so the weather patterns have just shifted all over the place,” said Super Doppler 10’s Chief Meteorologist Don Slater. “From June 15 to August 15, it used to be real quiet weather, you don’t see that anymore. You see bigger events.”

For someone who has been forecasting the weather around Hampton Roads for 40 years, Slater has seen it firsthand. When it comes to the weather changes in Virginia Beach, the frequency of flooding continues to increase.

So, this November, people in Virginia Beach will decide on a bond referendum. Approving it would allow the city to fund and fast-track 21 flooding and stormwater projects to address these ongoing flooding issues. If approved, the City of Virginia Beach would issue general obligation bonds in the maximum amount of $567.5 million.

“The main goal for all of these projects is to prevent homes from flooding in a 100-year event,” said Toni Utterback, the Stormwater Engineering Center administrator. “And on top of that, to allow street flooding but only up to three inches at the crown of the road for a 10-year event.”

Some of these projects would be as straightforward as elevating roads off Shore Drive. Others are as complex as building tidal gates and pump stations near Windsor Woods and Princess Anne Plaza.

All of them aim to mitigate flooding for decades to come.

“That’s the point of the bond referendum, to make it a continual funding stream for generations to come,” added Utterback. “I mean, stormwater is going to be an issue here for a long time.”

The goal for completion of these 21 projects would be within a 10-year window, but that is if those in Virginia Beach put the half-a-billion-dollar bond referendum in motion. 

So what happens if you vote for the referendum? How much will it cost you? And if you vote no? WAVY News 10’s Brett Hall will answer these questions Thursday on WAVY News 10 at 6 p.m.

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