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Workshop Kicks Off Climate Change Adaptation Project

Elizabeth Smith, project coordinator

A group of community leaders, environmentalists and academics will attend a three-hour workshop on the campus of Old Dominion University on Wednesday, June 27, to lay the foundation for a two-year project aimed at helping Hampton Roads adapt to increased flooding and other challenges posed by climate change.

Larry Atkinson, the ODU oceanographer 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 co-principal investigators on the project. The project is sponsored by the Virginia Sea Grant, an affiliate of the National Sea Grant, and is coordinated by Elizabeth Smith, an oceanographer who also is coordinator of ODU's CCSLRI.

Troy Hartley, director of the Virginia Sea Grant, which is headquartered at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, is the lead investigator for the project. Another co-PI is Benjamin McFarlane, physical and environmental planner for the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission.

"The workshop is the beginning of a very important project for us," said Atkinson. The goal of the work, he said, is to create an easy-to-access knowledge management system containing best practices for adapting to sea level rise and other challenges raised by climate change.

The formal name of the project is "Sea Grant Climate Adaptation 2012: Hampton Roads, Va.-Innovation and Adoption of Adaptation Best Practices."

At the kickoff workshop, which will be held at ODU's Center for Coastal Physical Oceanography from 2-5 p.m. on Wednesday, a collection of volunteers will identify stakeholders and regional experts who should be involved in the project. The volunteers will also rough out an organizational plan and operational timetable.

"Virginia coastal communities face multiple challenges in their efforts to adapt to sea level rise, increased beach and wetland erosion and flooding from heavy rain events and storm surges," the project abstract states. "(But) responsibilities and authority for responding to these challenges fall upon a wide array of public, private and non-profit organizations at the local, state and federal level. Thus, it is extremely difficult to make effective, generalized plans for change when each case of protection and adaptation involves such unique and specific site conditions and agency jurisdictions."

To surmount these difficulties, the project team proposes to assemble a community-university coalition to build local adaptation capacity. This will include establishing a series of Hampton Roads Adaptation Forums that draw together representatives of universities, government, businesses and civic organizations who can prioritize risks and identify potential solutions. The project summary describes the process as "fostering and building a comprehensive adaptation response in Hampton Roads that facilitates and promotes local-state-federal synchronization."

Furthermore, the project intends to sponsor two public town-hall meetings to gather more information and to keep the public informed about the team's work.

The knowledge management system that the project proposes to design and implement will help compile data and solutions that decision makers can use for climate-change adaptation. This system will also keep track of what works and what doesn't as it tries to develop best practices.

This article was posted on: June 26, 2012

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