March 27, 2024

The Ripple Effect: Funding Coastal Resilience

Coastal resilience is a growing business imperative for many local governments, particularly in cities like Virginia Beach.

The Ripple Effect Bonney Cove

Pictured: Future site of the Flood Protection Program's Marsh Restoration Project in Back Bay. The Virginia Community Flood Preparedness Fund awarded the project $5 million and the National Coastal Resilience Fund awarded $10 million.

With the increasing frequency and intensity of severe weather events, securing funding for resilience projects is more important than ever. However, funding such work is far from simple. It requires a delicate balance of strategic planning, resource allocation, and a diligent pursuit of competitive local, state, and federal funds.

Virginia Beach stands out in this regard, thanks to its proactive approach and a dedicated staff. Unlike many cities its size, Virginia Beach has a team solely focused on tracking and pursuing grant funding opportunities. The team collaborates closely with internal and external engineering and design professionals as well as other technical consultants throughout the application process to maximize the City's chances of securing grants.

Historically, the bulk of resilience funding options primarily benefited transportation projects. Lately, however, there has been a notable surge in opportunities designated for coastal resilience and stormwater management. This shift allows Virginia Beach to diversify its funding sources and tackle broader resilience challenges.

Another key advantage that Virginia Beach possesses is its ability to demonstrate its commitment to coastal resilience by way of dedicated financial resources earmarked for stormwater management. Many grant opportunities require matching funds or other forms of financial commitment from awardees. For example, Virginia Beach's Flood Protection Program serves as a valuable resource in meeting those requirements, allowing the City to leverage additional funding opportunities.

Grants Awarded and Pending Opportunities

Since Hurricane Matthew, Virginia Beach sought numerous funding avenues to enhance its stormwater infrastructure. The City has secured nearly $59 million in grants since 2020 alone. Among these successes is a $25 million FEMA Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) grant for Phase I of the Eastern Shore Drive Drainage Project, demonstrating the City’s capacity to secure substantial funding for critical projects.

Looking ahead, Virginia Beach is pursuing additional grants under FEMA’s BRIC program and Virginia’s Community Flood Preparedness Fund (CFPF). Projects like the Lake Bradford/Chubb Lake Pump Station and Outfall and the Back Bay Marsh Restoration project could benefit from these programs, with awards ranging from $7 million to $50 million.

The City is also pursuing a grant through the National Fish and Wildlife (NFWF) National Coastal Resilience Fund (NCRF) for Section II of its Bow Creek Stormwater Park, project. If successful, this award could range between $5 million and $30 million.

“It’s just as important to understand that we can’t, and shouldn’t, go after every funding opportunity out there,” said Katie Shannon, engineering support manager for the City’s Department of Public Works. “As a former manager liked to say, ‘The juice has to be worth the squeeze.’ State and federal awards, in particular, come with requirements. They can add significant cost and time to a project. In addition, it rarely makes financial sense to pursue resilience grants less than $1 million.”

The City also remains vigilant in exploring transportation-related funding avenues that could benefit other Flood Protection Program projects, such as Pungo Ferry Road improvements and West Neck Creek Bridge.

It is imperative for Virginia Beach and other cities facing similar challenges to adopt a holistic approach to funding coastal resilience initiatives. This approach entails proactively targeting grant opportunities, carefully assessing the return on investment, and strategically leveraging existing resources. In doing so, Virginia Beach is actively building a city better able to withstand more frequent and more severe weather and climate challenges.

The Virginia Beach Flood Protection Program—The Ripple Effect—is a comprehensive 10-year plan to address recurrent flooding in Virginia Beach. In November 2021, Virginia Beach voters overwhelmingly supported a resiliency package for several key flood protection initiatives to include drainage improvements, tide gates, pump stations and flood barriers throughout the city. The projects are led by Public Works with support from a community oversight board for transparency and accountability. Learn more at

Contact Information

Public Works Stormwater Engineering Center

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