RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam claims Virginia is launching the country’s strongest flood protections for state-owned property, under Executive Order Forty-Five he signed Thursday.
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.
“Flooding remains the most common and costliest natural disaster in Virginia and in the United States, and our state government is getting prepared,” said Governor Northam. “These standards will protect taxpayers by establishing critical protections for new state-owned property.”
This resilience standard measure comes one month after Governor Northam announced that the Commonwealth had negotiated the largest contract of any state to buy renewable energy to power state government. At least 30 percent of the electricity consumed by state agencies and institutions in Virginia will come from renewable sources by 2022.
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.
The below 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 the Federal Emergency Management Agency.