RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has released the Virginia Coastal Resilience Master Plan, which gives a roadmap for protecting the state’s coastline.

Virginia’s coast is facing both current and future challenges with rising sea levels and increased storm flooding.

“We must acknowledge that climate change is permanently altering the physical limits of our coastal lands,” said Northam in a news release Tuesday. “The only way we can adapt and maintain our thriving communities is with thoughtful planning, reliance on science, and a willingness to make tough decisions. This Master Plan will guide decisions by the Commonwealth and our local government partners.”

The Coastal Resilience Master Plan was a joint effort between the state and 2,000 stakeholders. The plan covers what land is exposed to hazards now and in the future, and details how flooding hazards in the future could impact community resources and manmade and natural infrastructure.

The Coastal Resiliency Database and Web Explorer is publicly available. The database shows the impact of coastal flood hazards, current and proposed resilience projects, as well as funding sources. 

According to the master plan, between 2020 and 2080:

  • the number of residents in homes exposed to extreme coastal flooding is projected to increase 160%, from about 360,000 to 943,000;
  • the number of residential, public, and commercial buildings exposed to an extreme coastal flood is projected to increase by almost 150%, from 140,000 to 340,000. Annualized flood damages could increase by 1,300% from $0.4 to $5.1 billion;
  • the number of miles of roadways exposed to chronic coastal flooding is projected to increase from 1,000 to nearly 3,800 miles, an increase of nearly 280%; and
  • about 170,000 acres, or 89%, of existing tidal wetlands and 3,800 acres, or 38%, of existing dunes and beaches may be permanently lost to open water.

“The Master Plan recognizes that flooding affects many Virginians but does not do so equally. This initial effort highlighted many unmet needs in underserved communities,” said Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources and Chief Resilience Officer Ann Jennings. “Working closely with the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, DCR will continue outreach and engagement for those communities moving forward.”

The plan will be updated on at least a five-year cycle, the governor’s office said. The updates will be managed by the Department of Conservation and Recreation in consultation with the Chief Resilience Officer, the Special Assistant to the Governor for Coastal Adaptation and Protection, and the Technical Advisory Committee.

An overview of the Virginia Coastal Resilience Master Plan may be found here. The governor’s letter for the Master Plan may be found here.