Flood Resilient Arlington: the county’s new stormwater program

Virginia

Arlington will issue a bond to increase the capacity and performance of its stormwater infrastructure; estimated to cost as much as $189 million over 10 years.

ARLINGTON, Va. (WDVM) — On July 8, 2019 a flash flood damaged many Arlington homes and businesses. The county is revamping its stormwater program, now called Flood Resilient Arlington, and they’re not alone: counties across the country are seeing record costs in flood damage as storms grow more severe. 75 to 80 percent of flooding in the U.S. occurs outside of the FEMA floodplain.

Immediately after the floods, county engineers visited over 100 residents and businesses to assess the damage. The county also hosted two highly attended forums about flood proofing and flood insurance (the region’s flood insurance excludes basement flooding). Now, for the first time in county history, Arlington will issue a bond to increase the capacity and performance of its stormwater infrastructure; estimated to cost as much as $189 million over 10 years. The county manager introduced the plan this week, which residents will vote on this November. 

“The conventional approach was for mitigation,” said the Arlington County Office of Sustainability and Environmental Management’s bureau chief Demetra McBride. “Mitigate flood, mitigate impact. And really when you’re talking about ongoing and future impacts of climate change you’re merging your mitigation strategies with your adaptation strategies.”

Flooding doesn’t just have an economic impact. “You experience sanitary sewer back flows,” McBride said. “The water causes erosion and sedimentation and the travel of pollutants and sediment over large areas with a huge volume of water that’s moving quite rapidly.”

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