Oversight of the Flood Fund will remain with the executive

The Virginia Community Flood Preparedness Fund, a million-dollar pot for community flood protection work across the state, will remain under executive oversight despite recent legislative efforts to transfer authority to an appointed citizens’ council.

Governor Glenn Youngkin vetoed legislation this would have transferred administration of the Flood Fund from the state Department of Conservation and Recreation to the Virginia Soil and Water Conservation Board, a citizen agency appointed by the Governor in coordination with the Soil and Water Conservation Districts. state water and the largest agricultural groups.

In his veto statement, the governor said the bill “would have the unintended consequence of fragmenting our coastal resilience efforts.”

The move ended an ongoing disagreement between the governor and the General Assembly over control of the Flood Fund, which to date has received approximately $136 million from Virginia’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Under this multi-state carbon market, power producers must buy allowances for every ton of carbon they emit in quarterly auctions.

Youngkin had previously recommended that oversight of the Flood Fund remain with the DCR, but his recommendation was defeated by a unanimous Senate vote when the one-day session resumed in Richmond in April.

Under the state constitutionany bill returned to the governor after a resumed session that is then vetoed is considered dead.

Sen. Lynwood Lewis, D-Accomack, said the dispute comes down to “a political disagreement between the governor’s office and those of us in the Senate who have been working on resilience for some time.”

Since Virginia joined RGGI in early 2021, auction revenue has exceeded forecasts. While state officials had estimated annual proceeds to hover around $100 million, Virginia’s 2021 revenue was $228 million. The first two auctions of 2022 will add another $150 million to that pot.

State law states that 45% of all RGGI money must go to the Flood Fund. Dave Neudeck, spokesman for DCR, said Friday that the Flood Fund currently has a balance of about $100 million. (That figure doesn’t include revenue from the last RGGI auction.) Millions of dollars have already been donated to local projects since Virginia began awarding grants under the program last October.

“I don’t think anyone anticipated the kind of revenue we would get from auctions,” Lewis said. Given the dollar amounts, many lawmakers “had real concerns that the Flood Fund was being administered by [the Department of Conservation and Recreation].”

These concerns have largely focused on the transparency of the process used by the DCR to determine which community flood protection projects should be funded.

In April, DCR Director Matt Wells sent a letter to Lewis and Del. David Bulova, D-Fairfax, outlining a series of steps the agency intends to take to ensure the public is kept informed about how the Flood Fund, as well as the newly created Resilient Virginia Revolving Loan Fund, is administered. Pledges include making all grant and loan applications and agency rating and approval decisions publicly available,

“Given the seriousness of this issue and the fact that public funds are involved, it is imperative that the process for awarding these grants and loans be as transparent as possible,” Wells wrote.

Lewis told the Mercury on Wednesday that he considers DCR’s commitments to be “substantial.”

“I think they intend to continue,” he said. “It’s just how close they can keep up.”

Coordinate resilience efforts

Flood protection and resilience have become increasingly important issues in Virginia as climate change drives changes in weather and coastal patterns. Concerns are particularly high in the Hampton Roads area, which is experiencing the second fastest rate of sea level rise in the United States after the Gulf Coast.

While most of Virginia’s resilience efforts have historically been driven at the local and regional level, a range of state-level systems to manage flood protection were deployed under the previous administration of Governor Ralph Northam. .

Northam’s tenure saw the creation of the Director of Resilience positions – a position made permanent under legislation introduced in 2020 by Del. Keith Hodges, R-Urbanna – and Special Assistant to the Governor for Coastal Adaptation and Protection. A 2018 Executive Decree led the creation and implementation of a Coastal Resilience Master Plan, which came out last december. Bills from the 2022 legislative session directed the implementation of the plan’s recommendations and made permanent a technical advisory committee for future revisions to the master plan.

To date, state funding has relied on revenue from RGGI, from which Youngkin pledged to withdraw Virginia. The Flood Fund, which was created in 2020 by reallocating a former “Virginia Shoreline Resiliency Fund” that never received any money, gets its dollars from auction proceeds. This week, the General Assembly also voted to seed the new Virginia Resilient Revolving Loan Fund with $25 million from the Flood Fund.

Youngkin sought to centralize state resilience efforts under one umbrella. Creating a “single state entity to develop, manage and integrate coastal restoration and resilience” was one of the governor’s legislative priorities for the 2022 session.

The proposal, however, ran into problems in the General Assembly. A Senate version died in committee; a House version was turned into a study to determine whether statewide authority was needed, and then tabled.

“The administration’s thinking is that we need it to attract federal money,” Del said. Rob Bloxom, R-Accomack, who sponsored the administration’s authority bill, at a Senate panel in March. “There is a difference of opinion as to whether we need it or not.”

Youngkin is still interested in the idea.

“The Governor remains committed to establish a single state entity to develop, manage and integrate resilience efforts and progress on long-delayed projects and solutions for the Commonwealth,” spokesman Macaulay Porter wrote in an email Thursday.

Back To Top