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Middle Peninsula property owners say Flood Fund disadvantages rural coastal dwellers

Lawmakers likely to take up issue of state flood protection for private lands
Lawmakers likely to take up issue of state flood protection for private lands
Lawmakers likely to take up issue of state flood protection for private lands(Ned Oliver, Virginia Mercury)
Published: Nov. 8, 2021 at 3:59 PM EST
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On the weekend of Oct. 9, with the incoming fall and a new moon swelling tides along the Mid-Atlantic coast, water gushed up from the Chesapeake Bay onto Ron Robinson’s property in Mathews County.

The so-called “king tide” wasn’t unexpected: the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had earlier in the season issued a bulletin predicting higher than normal tides for the region during the period. But the real water levels outstripped NOAA predictions, hitting the agency’s “moderate flooding” stage on Oct. 10.

“This time,” said Robinson, his dock “was completely underwater and the erosion was terrible. It was just massive waves crashing into our yard.”

Robinson, like many other property owners on the rural Middle Peninsula, has been seeking a way to hold back the waters that with sea-level rise keep rising ever higher. Since he bought his house in Mathews in August 2020, he estimates he’s lost between 20 and 30 feet of his yard to the seas.

For these property owners, the new Community Flood Preparedness Fund, flush with $64 million from Virginia’s participation in a regional carbon market, represents a lifeline. But after Virginia announced the first round of $7.8 million in local flood protection grants, some residents say the state is unfairly imposing more stringent standards on projects in rural areas, where shorelines are overwhelmingly in private hands.

“The fund is here to help communities deal with flooding challenges, and yet all the private (projects) are lock-boxed,” said Lewie Lawrence, executive director of the Middle Peninsula Planning Commission.

Darryl Glover, a deputy director with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation who is overseeing the Flood Fund, said he doesn’t believe the current approach to distributing its dollars disadvantages the state’s rural coastal areas — but, he insists, all projects have to be able to show community-scale benefits.

The Flood Fund “was not intended to address individual properties,” he said.

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.(Virginia Mercury)

The Virginia Mercury is a new, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.

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