Conference to focus on flooding threats to military installations

Hugh Lessig
Contact Reporterhlessig@dailypress.com

The rising threat of flooding to military installations such as Langley Air Force Base will be the focus of a wide-ranging conference Friday at the William and Mary Law School.

The all-day discussion includes federal and state officials, retired admirals and generals, private-sector experts and scientists. Titled “Defending Our Coasts: Ensuring Military Readiness and Economic Viability As Waters Rise,” it is the fifth annual conference sponsored by the Virginia Coastal Policy Center.

The conference has focused on a different topic each year, said Elizabeth Andrews, the center’s director. The threat of rising water and flooding to Defense Department sites was a timely choice this year because the subject is getting more and more attention, she said.

The goal of the conference is to raise the issue’s profile even higher and “to talk about the solutions that are available and try to move the ball forward on the policy discussion,” she said.

Running from 9 a.m to 5 p.m., topics cover federal and state perspectives, plus how organizations are cooperating. Three members of Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s cabinet are scheduled to speak: Public Safety and Homeland Security Secretary Brian Moran, Secretary of Natural Resources Molly Ward and Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs Carlos Hopkins.

Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Westmoreland,will offer a federal perspective as will William Wrobel, NASA Wallops flight facility director.Those scheduled to appear as part of panel discussions include Hampton Mayor Donnie Tuck and Del. Chris Stolle, R-Virginia Beach.

The threat of coastal flooding to the Hampton Roads military community has been discussed for years. At Langley, its waterside location is ideal for conducting training missions away from populated areas. But the base is only a few feet above sea level. To blunt the rising water, the Air Force has made several improvements.

Earlier this year, Air Force Col. Caroline M. Miller said analysis from neighboring NASA Langley has allowed the Air Force to see exactly how tidal flooding will affect the base. When a hurricane comes, the previous plan was to "sandbag everything, " Miller said. Now they know exactly which areas to protect.

Massive pumps now channel water away from the runway, and the base is much better prepared to bounce back, said Miller, who spoke to the Daily Press before leaving Langley for another assignment.

"It's amazing here to watch flood recovery, " she said.

Friday’s conference is open to the public and will be held at the William and Mary School of Education, 301 Monticello Ave., Williamsburg. There is a $50 registration fee; students with a W&M ID can be admitted for free.

For a full agenda, go to the website for the law school at law.wm.edu and look for the link to the VCPC conference.

Lessig can be reached by phone at 757-247-7821

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