Gov. Northam signs bill creating new cabinet position focused on flooding, sea level rise

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. - Virginia will soon have a new face in the fight against flooding and sea level rise.

Friday, Gov. Ralph Northam signed two bills inside the College of William & Mary's Law School creating a new position called the Special Assistant to the Governor for Coastal Adaptation and Protection.

“There are well intended groups whether they be environmental groups or local government that are doing their thing and we want to have [someone] that can pull all that together," said Gov. Northam.

The bills, both identical with one coming from the state House and the other coming from the Senate, began following a special study conducted three years ago.

Del. Chris Stolle (R-Virginia Beach) was one of the legislators leading the bi-partisan effort to create the position, which will also serve as a liaison between state organizations and the governor and also between Virginia and the federal government and other entities.

“[They will look] at how we adapt. Our future’s going to be living with water, moving forward and protecting our coast," said Stolle.

A key concern moving forward, Stolle says, are how flooding and sea level rise will impact the Hampton Roads area's assets.

“The Navy’s a huge part, the [Port of Virginia] is a huge part of our economy, tourism is a huge part. All of them are dependent on water. We have to continue to find ways to live with the water," said Stolle.

Gov. Northam praised lawmakers on both sides of the aisle for coming together to tackle the issue.

“We feel if we can tackle it head on, we can turn it into an economic advantage," he said.

The governor says sea levels are expected to go up a foot or two in the next 50 years. The funding for this new position will be available starting in July at which point Gov. Northam says interviews will begin.