VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Before taxpayers invest more than $60 million to transform a golf course into a flood fighting tool, planners want to know if the community agrees with their plans.
Multi-purpose playing fields, mountain bike trails, pickleball courts, wildlife overlooks and even an “interpretive stormwater playground” are included as features in Virginia Beach’s proposed Bow Creek Stormwater Park.
Current plans call for it to be built on the 121 acres of city-owned land that is currently the Bow Creek Golf Course. City engineers have said it is the only area of land near the Windsor Woods, Princess Anne Plaza and The Lakes neighborhoods large enough to add 300 acre feet of stormwater storage ponds. The hope is it would help alleviate flooding concerns for nearly 1,000 homes.
Thursday evening more than 100 people packed into a room at Bow Creek Recreation Center to hear more about the plan.
“I want to know that we’re not going to flood again because they are doing something,” said Rick Desordi, who owns a home in the Princess Anne Plaza community.
Desordi said his home sustained an estimated $35,000 in damage when Hurricane Matthew hit in 2016. Approximately 800 homes in Virginia Beach reported damage as a result of Matthew, according to city presentations.
“We didn’t have flood insurance and we weren’t in a flood zone,” Desordi said. “We have flood insurance now, I hope we never have to use it again.”
Sea level rise coupled with more frequent storms with “significant tides and rainfall amounts” have caused severe flooding in the area, according to city engineers.
Following the presentation by city staff, Desordi said he was confused why the whole golf course wasn’t being used for stormwater.
“So if in 20 years we expect to get more water to store, shouldn’t these lakes be the entire golf course? Instead of just part of it?”
The more than half-a-century old neighborhoods are located on what was originally forest surrounded by farmland, which is a low-lying area, according to Michael Mundy, the Stormwater Engineering Program Manager for the City of Virginia Beach.
“You can dig one big hole, but once you’ve got a deep hole, if it’s already filled with water, that’s not available storage,” Mundy said. “You want above that normal water elevation, that’s when you can store water. So since that area is open, now you can make use of it to do other things with it.”
The plans are still in its very early stages and could change depending on the community feedback.
“It’s going to take 8-12 years to build it if it goes through,” Mundy said.
Virginia Beach City Council has included the project in their long term improvement budget. Mundy estimates a total cost of $60 million-$80 million.
Local taxpayers may not be on the hook for it all. Last February, FEMA granted the city nearly $5.3 million to help mitigate problems in the Windsor Woods neighborhood.
An estimated $354 million is also expected to be spent on designing and installing 3 new tide gates, 2 new pump stations, several retention ponds and miles of larger drainage pipe in the area.