Virginia Governor Announces Strong Flood Protections for State-Owned Property

Virginia is taking new steps to address climate change, launching one the country’s strongest flood protections for state-owned property under executive order 45 that Governor Ralph Northam signed in November 2019.

The executive order creates the Virginia Flood Risk Management Standard to improve flood protection in flood prone areas across the state, further encouraging smart and resilient construction of state buildings. It establishes a “freeboard” standard that increases protection of state-owned buildings in coastal and riverine floodplains.

A first of its kind for any state, the standard incorporates science-based sea level rise projections that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has developed and adopted. The standard requires that state-owned buildings are built to certain elevation standards to protect them from flooding. The new standards will apply to all state-owned buildings authorized for construction after January 1, 2021.

The above graphic shows elevation standards for new state-owned buildings in flood-prone areas. Flood-prone areas include sea level rise inundation areas as well 100- and 500- year floodplains as mapped by FEMA.

“It is simply common sense to protect against the risk of flooding, because climate change is driving sea levels higher and making storms more intense,” Governor Northam said. “Flooding remains the most common and costliest natural disaster in Virginia and in the United States, and our state government is getting prepared. These standards will protect taxpayers by establishing critical protections for new state-owned property.”

The new Virginia Flood Risk Management Standard applies to flood prone areas throughout the state and continues an existing prohibition against developing state-owned buildings in flood-prone areas without a variance.

When a variance is granted, buildings will need to build to the new Virginia Flood Risk Management Standard to prepare for future sea level rise conditions. The new standard projects “sea level rise inundation areas,” in addition to the “flood hazard areas” that are currently identified and mapped. The order directs that state development in these areas must be elevated to a point that minimizes flood risk from tidal flooding, whether it is caused by sea level rise, rain, or both.

Virginia governor announces strong flood protections for stateowned property. (n.d.). Retrieved from

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