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Newport News requests left out of $120M sea level rise grant

Theresa Clift
City officials wanted money to help fund Southeast Community projects

NEWPORT NEWS — Hampton Roads will receive about $120.5 million in federal funding to address the effects of sea level rise and natural disasters, though requests from Newport News for the program were all denied.

The one-time program, called the National Disaster Resilience Competition, aimed to address unmet needs of localities hit by natural disasters been 2011 and 2013.

Norfolk, Newport News and Hampton submitted a joint application to the competition, administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and other agencies.

The three Hampton Roads localities made the case that much of the damage Hurricane Irene caused had never been repaired.

The projects that Newport News and Chesapeake officials requested however, were not chosen for funding, said HUD spokeswoman Lisa Wolfe.

Instead, the $120 million will go toward protecting the Ohio Creek watershed in Norfolk and to create a "Coastal Resilience Laboratory and Accelerator Center." That center could go anywhere, Wolfe said, though the drawings in the application show it serving Norfolk.

Even if it is in Norfolk, the center could benefit all of Hampton Roads, Wolfe said. It's still in the early planning stages.

Newport News had requested about $20.6 million for three projects in the Southeast Community, which were all denied.

The city wanted the money to help upgrade the existing Chesapeake Avenue seawall, which extends from the Anderson Park fishing pier to the Hampton city line, and build a bike trail and sidewalk adjacent to the seawall, according to the city application, provided by HUD.

Newport News also would have used the money to stabilize two open drainage channels, one along Hampton Avenue and one at Salters Creek along an existing right-of-way.

Lastly, the city would have used the funds to help stabilize a 40-foot tide gate with storm pump station at 16th Street.

Even though the projects were rejected, the city could find funding for them in the future, Wolfe said.

"Now they're in a good position to look for other funding streams and just knowing this is such a high priority because of the impacts of climate change," Wolfe said.

HUD awarded $1 billion to eight states and five localities. Virginia received the third largest amount, after New York City at $176 million and New Orleans at $141 million.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe and HUD Secretary Julian Castro announced the national winners at a press conference Thursday in Norfolk.

Clift can be reached by phone at 757-247-7870.

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