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Home Science Causes Rising Seas Are Flooding Virginia’s Naval Base, and There’s No Plan to Fix It! by CityTech blogger Shameeka Reed

Rising Seas Are Flooding Virginia’s Naval Base, and There’s No Plan to Fix It! by CityTech blogger Shameeka Reed

Is there really no plan? How is there no plan? I thought this was America! I thought America takes pride in all their military forces. But one of their biggest naval bases is in danger of being submerged completely due to sea level rise which is caused by global warming and climate change. It’s amazing how little our current president cares about this issue. The last president to embrace climate change policy was President Obama. Naval Station Norfolk holds the first responders for the surrounding area, and yet the main roads occasionally flood during high tides! Sadder still, the surrounding land around the base floods on sunny days in spring.


Former base commander Joe Bouchard feels that the base has become a pond, and that the condition impedes the base from accomplishing its mission. The water was a foot and a half lower when the naval station was established at Norfolk. Today, parts of the base are close to sea level.

I feel like this was an issue decades ago and now it is full blown problem. Norfolk has 144 miles of shoreline and now has to raise homes and roads, revamp drainage systems, build seawalls and replace concrete bulkheads with living shorelines and earthen berms. Bouchard mentions that once or twice a month, seawater subsumes steam lines that run along the bottom of the piers where the fleet’s ships are moored. It bubbles up through storm drains and closes roads: “It can actually shut down operations, or make it very difficult for people to get around”.


Bouchard was not the only retired government official to speak on how the country’s leaders and those living on the coast are blind to sea level rise. They are now unknowingly fighting for their existence. This problem is inextricably tied to global warming. Then again, we must recognize that relief efforts are being attempted. But these ‘band aid’ solutions often backfire. The government built a flood gate on a tidal creek that protect flooding by diverting water. But, the choices are: to shut it gate and the inland creek swell with latent rainwater, or leave it open and allow the sea to surge in.


To combat flooding, the public restored a small wetland and raised the road along the preexisting park. Ideally, this makes sense but it is still only elevated for the span of 5 houses. Adjacent areas are still flooding! Wetland plants are actually sprouting in other people’s lawns! Other homes are raised three feet above the base flood elevation as per new building regulations.

It’s very disappointing that this problem is just now starting to become important. I’m beginning to suspect that it’s now too late. Norfolk was awarded $120 million in federal funding and that may not be enough. The Hampton Roads road system retrofit alone may cost billions of dollars over the next century. And in 2008, the military identified 30 facilities that were experiencing “increased risk” from sea level rise. More recently, it’s been assessing the threat to each of its more than 7,000 bases and other sites worldwide. Last year, the Defense Department’s environmental research program published a technical assessment that presented sea level rise scenarios for 1,774 military sites. I’m not sure where we go from here.. We are facing something that is more than a technical fix. We definitely need a social fix. We need to fix how we treat our planet. And teach the youth and old on how to live and maintain in a changing world. Because global warming is a real problem that isn’t being recognized.

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2 Comments  comments 

2 Responses

  1. Lauren A

    Thank you for this thoughtful piece. Your assessment is spot on. There appears to be a real lack of accountability about climate change when it comes to policy. As for the flooding, what are ways in which the flooding can be stopped? Is there any outcry from the community about the flooding they are having to deal with and what is happening with their home? Where does the role of flood insurance come into play here? This is clearly a major point of concern and it is important to acknowledge the role that climate change has played in the flooding problem at this base.

  2. It is interesting to hear about the intersection between climate change and the US military. I think the fact that we are trying to provide 120 million dollars to “fix” the problems Norfolk’s problems, but yet we are pulling out of the Paris Agreement. It seems like we are trying to put a band-aid on a huge wound. Hopefully, we can all wake up and begin to attack the problem of climate change at its source-GHGs.

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