Norfolk Nonprofit's New Home In Floodplain To Showcase Green Sea Level Rise Response
A Hampton Roads environmental non-profit hopes to showcase eco-friendly ways of responding to sea level rise as it moves its headquarters to a floodplain in Norfolk.
The Elizabeth River Project’s new three-story building will be at 4610 Colley Avenue off Knitting Mill Creek.
The campus will feature a waterfront park that includes wetlands and native trees that naturally soak up floodwater and create habitat for wildlife. The building will also be energy efficient with solar panels and rain cisterns that store water.
The organization’s executive director, Marjorie Mayfield Jackson, hopes the headquarters will inspire other shorefront businesses and homeowners to adopt similar practices in response to the rising seas.
“We're there to demonstrate the right way for the time that it’s possible and practical to remain next to the shore,” she said.
Jackson joined WHRV’s Sam Turken to discuss the new headquarters.
Listen to their conversation, and find an edited transcript below:
Sam Turken: Hi Marjorie. Thanks for joining us.
Marjorie Mayfield Jackson: Thank you for having me.
ST: The three story building will be in an area off Knitting Mill Creek that floods. Why did you decide on this new location?
MMJ: We thought it was an exciting opportunity to demonstrate some new practices that are gonna be important to the community and to the world, really, as we all live with rising seas. We want practices -- they may be new -- but they are practical for the average homeowner or business to adapt. Adopt.
ST: Now the headquarters will have many different features that resist flooding and reduce energy consumption. Can you talk a little bit more about those features?
MMJ: Sure. So right now it's an aging structure -- one story and it has a failing marina. And we are going to redevelop the whole shoreline to be a learning park where many partners -- Old Dominion in particular -- will have a chance to demonstrate emerging practices in being resilient to rising seas. And then the facility itself will also be demonstrating how to not be any more a part of the contributing problems of climate change that are bringing about these rising seas. So it'll have solar power and storage of water and rain cisterns. We hope to really inspire that whole corridor to be an eco-corridor.
ST: And when you say redeveloping the shoreline, what does that entail?
MMJ: The traditional homeowner or business on the waterfront are used to putting in man-made hard surfaces, bulkheads. If you use only the hard structures, you're not taking into account protecting a living river system. The fishes, the wading birds -- they depend on wetlands to filter pollution and create habitat. So we're going to put back the natural wetlands and the trees that normally would grow behind them to absorb runoff and filter pollution and act as a sponge for flooding. So it becomes a healthy living shoreline that is more protective of humans over time as well as wildlife.
ST: Now, when it comes to sea level rise, there are arguments about living with water versus retreating from it. What's your response to that? And what do you think is the right balance?
MMJ: For us, we know that the whole whole area is not just going to pick up tomorrow and pack up and move away from the shoreline. So how do you continue to live and work on the shoreline in the most protective way for the river and not just for humans? We're also saying that in maybe 50 years, we intentionally plan to perhaps abandon the site. And we're OK with that. We're there to demonstrate the right way for the time that is possible and practical to remain next to the shore.
ST: That was Marjorie Mayfield Jackson. She's executive director of the Elizabeth River Project. Thanks for coming on.
MMJ: Thank you.