Historic Community Fights Flooding
- Written by Belinda Elliott
- Category: Community
- Published: 29 March 2023
The riverfront neighborhood of Chesterfield Heights in Norfolk, Virginia, is a historic middle-and-low income, predominantly African American community on the Eastern Branch of the Elizabeth River. The neighborhood includes over 400 houses on the Historic National Register and Grandy Village, which includes a public housing community with more than 300 units.
Homeowners in Chesterfield Heights have seen their homes flooded and ravaged in recent years. Norfolk, Virginia, has been identified as one of the most vulnerable communities to sea level rise in the United States. Located in southeastern Virginia, the area is a flat, tidal region with a predicted four-to-six feet of sea level rise over the next 100 years.
In 2016, a design proposal created to implement sea level mitigation design efforts in the neighborhood received $112 million in federal funding and crews in Norfolk started work on a flood wall and earth berm along the shoreline. The proposal was created by the Coastal Community Design Collaborative (CCDC), a cross-university and cross-disciplinary collaboration between Hampton University and Old Dominion University poised to carry out sea level mitigation design efforts.
Near the shoreline, crews have constructed more than 1,000 linear feet of floodwall, along with more than 2,000 linear feet of living shoreline. Based on National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration sea-level rise projections, an earth berm was built to an elevation of 12 feet. It extends from the floodwall, across the shoreline and into the neighborhood. The combination of floodwall and berm create a continuous coastal defense system for the entire community.
If this $112 million experiment is successful, its impacts will aid not only this historic neighborhood in Norfolk, but it could become a model for cities across the nation. It is estimated that over 126 million Americans live in coastal areas threatened by sea level rise.
A new short digital film from WHRO Public Media explores this innovative work being completed in Chesterfield Heights.
With drones and cameras on the ground and in the water, producers will take viewers through this historic neighborhood and all of the innovative structures that have been built to safeguard it. Viewers will hear from project managers, the scientists providing explanations for the success or failure of the designs, and the city planners who hope these solutions will guide their efforts to protect the entire area.
Join us as we highlight the ways these latest practices and theories in resilience work are being tested. Billions of dollars in federal and state funding hang in the balance. Are these the solutions that can safeguard Hampton Roads? Are these the solutions that can safeguard coastal communities across the country?
The film premieres on Saturday, April 22, at 7 p.m. on the WHRO Facebook page.
Tuesday, April 11, 6:30 p.m. at WHRO
Preview New NOVA Film: Weathering the Future
Register to Attend
Join us for a screening of clips from NOVA's upcoming film Weathering the Future, followed by a panel discussion at the WHRO studios in Norfolk.
About the film:
It’s hard not to notice: our weather is changing. From longer, hotter heat waves, to more intense rainstorms, to megafires and multi-year droughts, the U.S. is experiencing the full range of impacts from a changing global climate. At the same time, many on the front lines are fighting back – innovating solutions, marshaling ancient wisdom, and developing visionary ideas. The lessons they're learning today can help all of us adapt in the years ahead, as the planet gets warmer and our weather gets more extreme.
• Emily Steinhilber, Environmental Defense Fund
• Skip Stiles, Wetlands Watch
• Dr. Navid Tahvildari, Old Dominion University
• Patrick Rockey: News 3’s Chief Meteorologist
Register to Attend
Wednesday, April 12, 9 p.m.
National Broadcast - NOVA: Weathering the Future
This documentary will examine the dramatic ways in which our weather is changing. From longer, hotter heat waves, to more intense rainstorms, to megafires and multi-year droughts, the U.S. is experiencing the full range of impacts from a changing global climate. At the same time, many on the front lines are fighting back—innovating solutions, marshaling ancient wisdom, and developing visionary ideas. The lessons they're learning today can help all of us adapt in the years ahead, as the planet gets warmer and our weather gets more extreme.
About this Initiative:
WHRO Public Media is partnering with NOVA on its “Climate Across America” initiative. “Climate Across America” is a national initiative that works to spotlight how climate change affects communities across the U.S. and engage audiences in productive conversations about innovative climate solutions. Read more about the local work happening as part of this initiative.
Major funding for Weathering the Future and the Climate Across America Science and Society Project is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Additional funding is provided by the GBH Planet Future Fund.
Funding for NOVA is provided by the NOVA Science Trust, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and PBS viewers.