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The Pentagon chose Naval Station Norfolk as the first pilot site for a project aimed at building climate resilience in vulnerable military communities.

The base will be one of four spots across the country assigned an Interagency Regional Coordinator for Resilience. 

The coordinators are responsible for improving the resilience of communities that support a military installation. They’re also meant to help create a model for how those communities can protect themselves against disasters driven by climate change.

The concept was jumpstarted by a group of lawmakers from Virginia, including Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, and Reps. Bobby Scott and Rob Wittman.

Last year, the group wrote a letter to President Joe Biden, pushing for a new position under the Department of Defense devoted to coordinating resilience efforts in Hampton Roads.

Local governments have led most of the region’s resilience work to date, they wrote. 

“Given the federal government’s large footprint in Hampton Roads, there is a need for federal agencies to play a more active role” in proactively addressing climate change, the lawmakers said.

Congress approved the pilot program in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act

The law instructed the Pentagon to select areas with significant sea level rise that jeopardizes military readiness or prevents service members from reaching their posts. 

Officials also focused on communities that have already done climate adaptation planning across jurisdictions, like the Norfolk-Virginia Beach Joint Land Use Study completed a few years ago.

In a statement Monday, Congressman Scott and Sens. Warner and Kaine celebrated the Pentagon’s decision.

“The Hampton Roads region is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, which puts crucial military installations at risk,” the statement said.

The new regional coordinators “will help ensure that our military readiness is maintained by enacting effective climate adaptation strategies that build on the work of local governments and existing regional efforts.”

Many military installations throughout Virginia, including the Norfolk base, also recently joined a conservation partnership called the Virginia Security Corridor.