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Series of Flooding Adaptation Forums Begins Friday at VMASC

Can Hampton Roads localities work together to combat the increased flooding risk that has been evident in the region in recent years and has been predicted to increase significantly through this century? That's a goal to be addressed by a series of Adaptation Forums, the first of which will be Friday, Nov. 16, at Old Dominion University's Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center (VMASC) in Suffolk.

ODU, Virginia Sea Grant (VSG) and the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission have joined to present "Increased Flooding Risk Due to Sea Level Rise in Hampton Roads - Concerns, Best Practices and Plans for Adaptation" in a series of four forums over the next 18 months.

The VSG is funding the effort, which is being led by Troy W. Hartley of Virginia Institute of Marine Science and VSG. Larry Atkinson, ODU Slover Professor of Oceanography who directs the university's Climate Change and Sea Level Rise Initiative (CCSLRI), and Ariel Pinto, ODU associate professor of engineering management and systems engineering, are also on the forum project team. The fourth member of the team is Benjamin McFarlane of the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission.

The first forum, which will be from 9 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. on Nov. 16 at VMASC headquarters, 1030 University Blvd., Suffolk, will begin with an overview section of the program including contributions from Atkinson, Pinto and Barry Ezell, the VMASC chief scientist. A late-morning discussion section will include a specific segment on "lessons learned from Hurricane Sandy."

After lunch, which will be provided, participants will break into focus groups, each of which will consider and develop a report on the following topics: emergency management, public works/utilities/roads, land use, environmental planning and federal facilities.

Attendees can register for the forum online via the CCSLRI website at http://ww2.odu.edu/ao/research/ccslri/hr_forum.shtml. More information about the forum series is available from Elizabeth Smith of the CCSLRI at exsmith@odu.edu.

Atkinson said the forums are to encourage regional discussions among municipalities toward adopting effective adaptation designs and plans to deal with rising sea levels. Forum participants will include academics and local, regional, state and federal agency officials with authority and responsibility for critical infrastructure and facilities in Hampton Roads. Included will be engineers, planners, facility managers, emergency response directors and administrators.

"We seek to build a professional network that shares information and adaptation lessons learned through communication and information management," Atkinson said.

The forum will enable the most effective and efficient local government adaptation activities by:

* Identifying community-specific best practices in adaptation strategies, technologies and specifications, and promoting broad adoption for regional compatibility.

* Facilitating consistency in data management and sharing to ensure common scientific understanding and foundation for local and regional response.

* Establishing targeted, specific adaptation action plans for the priority sub-areas identified in current sea level rise, inundation and flooding assessments.

* Conducting proactive federal liaison functions to provide a venue for local-state-federal communications that promotes a comprehensive system-wide response.

* Monitoring and sharing information on effectiveness of adoption and implementation of specific adaptation activities to enable adaptive management among Hampton Road municipalities and state and federal agencies.

Atkinson said an outcome that is expected from the Adaptation Forums is a "knowledge management network to spur innovation and adoption of adaptation best practices."

Other presenters at the forum will include Russell DeYoung, senior research scientist and climate adaptation science investigator at the NASA Langley Research Center, and Molly Mitchell of the VIMS Center for Coastal Resources Management.