Institute for Environmental Negotiation

Empowering communities to create shared solutions

Community Relocation in the Face of Recurring Inundation: A Preliminary Framework

The resilience of Virginia's coastal cities, towns, and villages is threated by sinking ground (subsidence), increased rainfall intensity, storm surges and rising seas. The flood records are clear: more flooding is occuring now than ever before and more flooding is expected in coming years. These hazards directly affect regional economy, public health and social coherence. Coastal communities in Virginia are experiencing high risk areas prone to repeated flooding, some of which are projected over time to become permanent landscapes of water. 

How will communities address the challenges that rising water poses to established neighborhoods and businesses? Will they continue to provide services? At what point will homes and roads be raised, or locality services withdrawn? How can residents be involved and engaged in deciding their own fate? 
To address these questions, University of Virginia (UVA) architecture professor Alex Wall used a Resilience Research SEED grant to work with Tanya Denckla Cobb, Director of the Institute for Environmental Negotiation (IEN) to convene a focus group of coastal locality stakeholders. With the support and partnership of Michelle Covi, Assistant Professor of Practice, Virginia Sea Grant Climate Adaptation and Resilience Program, of Old Dominion University/Virginia Sea Grant (ODU), a focus group of eleven knowledgeable “thought leaders” from coastal localities, universities and nonprofits gathered on August 30, 2016 to tackle the difficult (and dire) topic of relocation. Participants explored how at-risk coastal communities might conceptualize, plan, and implement the undesired and unwanted relocation of a neighborhood or community. The result of their work – Community Relocation in the Face of Recurring Inundation: A Preliminary Framework – is intended as a conversation starter, in hopes that others will build on this work to help coastal localities prepare for the challenges associated with possible community relocation.