PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — In an effort to better address the increasing flooding threat in Hampton Roads, the Commonwealth of Virginia is looking to hear from underserved communities on what issues flooding causes them.

Around twenty people attended a meeting Thursday evening at Tidewater Community College’s Portsmouth campus for the first of several meetings within the seven cities concerning the development of Virginia’s Coastal Resilience Master Plan.

When completed, the plan is expected lay out the best projects to combat flooding, and the best way communities can go about funding those projects.

Time is of the essence as sea level rise caused by climate change will put 424 square miles of land in coastal Virginia at risk of permanent flooding, according to an Old Dominion University study. In 2018 and 2019 alone, Virginia experienced nine major flooding events that led to about $1.6 billion in damage, according to the state.

Gov. Ralph Northam, (D-Va.) first announced the plan in October in an effort to help all the different municipalities move forward toward the same goal of curbing the effects of climate change.

In Virginia Beach, millions of dollars have already been spent on studying the city’s flooding frustrations, from tides, rainfall and storms. This November, voters will be asked to pay more in taxes in exchange for $500 million in stormwater project spending.

In cash-strapped Portsmouth, where nearly half of the city’s land is tax-exempt and the amount of population living below the poverty line is above the national average, a flood adaptation plan has never been started.

“Help — that is what we need to do this,” Mayor Shannon Glover said following the meeting.

Flooding in Portsmouth can paralyze the entire area. Just two weeks ago, a nearly 3-inch rainfall made major roadways unpassable.

“After every heavy rain, some streets repeatedly flood,” said Gary Harris, who lives in Cavalier Manor. “We’ve got to be prepared for these storms because climate change is coming.”

Ellen Bolen, an advisor to the Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources in Virginia, said that is exactly the information the state needs.

“We need to hear from historically excluded or under-resourced communities on what their problems are in terms of how flooding is impacting them, and where the gaps are where resources are being applied,” Bolen said. “It’s an effort to be able to look out and figure out what resources are needed and where and how can we ensure a coordinated effort.”

Those in attendance used markers to circle locations in the city where they have personally experienced flooding.

If you were unable to attend you can still give your feedback on the issue on the state’s website.

Upcoming community meetings on Flooding and Coastal Resilience meetings in Hampton Roads:

  • Sept. 7 — Norfolk — 5-7 p.m. — Norfolk State University Student Center, Section B — 700 Park Ave., Norfolk, VA 23504
  • Sept. 14 — Norfolk — 5-7 p.m. — Old Dominion University Webb Center Hampton Newport News Room — 1301 49th St., Norfolk, VA 23529
  • Sept. 20 — Newport News — 5-7 p.m. –HRCAP — 2410 Wickham Ave., Newport News, VA 23607
  • Sept. 21 — Hampton — 5-7 p.m. — HRCAP — 1919 Commerce Dr., Hampton, VA 23666
  • Sept. 27 — Virginia Beach — 5-7 p.m. — Corporate Landing Middle School — 1597 Corporate Landing Pkwy., Va Beach, VA 23454