Norfolk signs $2.6 billion floodwall agreement with Army Corps of Engineers

Norfolk signs $2.6 billion floodwall agreement with Army Corps of Engineers

Mayor Kenny Alexander signs the Project Partnership Agreement with Col. Brian Hallberg, commander of the Army Corps of Engineers’ Norfolk District. (Photo by Katherine Hafner)

Norfolk officially signed a $2.6 billion agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Monday, paving the way for the next steps in constructing a floodwall.

The Project Partnership Agreement is for what the city calls Resilient Norfolk, a suite of projects designed to protect key parts of the city from the increasing threat of flooding during major storms.

Federal, state and local officials gathered for Monday’s ceremony downtown at the Waterside District, steps from where part of the 8-mile concrete wall will run along the Elizabeth River.

Mayor Kenny Alexander said Norfolk must protect its greatest asset: access to local waterways as an economic driver and way of life.

“Water is Norfolk’s identity. And with this distinction comes an immense burden, being increasingly at risk from flooding and damage from coastal storms,” Alexander said. “Resilient Norfolk is just the first step in building a resilient city for the future.”

The signing unlocks $400 million awarded for the project under the 2021 federal infrastructure law. The federal government will pay 65% of the overall cost, leaving Norfolk on the hook for $930 million.

City Council members voted to OK the agreement in April, following several delays due to equity and cost concerns.

Their decision ultimately passed with multiple stipulations, including a resolution to ask the state to pay for half of the city’s share.

Norfolk already received $25 million from the state through a flood preparedness grant program funded by Virginia’s proceeds from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, from which a state air board last week voted to withdraw.

Another aims to address concerns from residents of historically Black neighborhoods on the city’s Southside across the river, who learned shortly before the vote that the project would largely exclude their communities.

The plan, which falls under the Army Corps’ Coastal Storm Risk Management program, has been in the works for nearly a decade. It followed analysis about areas vulnerable to coastal storms directed by Congress after Hurricane Sandy.

The floodwall, which will wrap around the riverfront from near the Campostella Bridge to Lambert’s Point, is Resilient Norfolk’s most talked-about and recognizable feature. That includes extending 2,750 feet of existing floodwall in downtown built by the Corps in 1971.

But that’s only part of it. The plan is broken into five phases, starting with the floodwall and a series of levees and tide gates.

Later stages of the plan include pump stations, tide gates and surge barriers at Pretty Lake, the Lafayette River and Broad Creek.

City officials also plan to undertake “non-structural” elements with some homeowners, including raising homes and filling in basements.

Virginia Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine and Congressman Bobby Scott spoke at the signing Monday, lauding the government partnership and emphasizing the threats Norfolk faces from sea level rise tied to climate change.

Resilient Norfolk will not address tidal flooding from sea level rise, instead focusing on catastrophic events like hurricanes that force large amounts of water onto land.

 

Article and Photo By Katherine Hafner, WHRO