The Hampton Roads region is located in southeastern Virginia where the Chesapeake Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean. The region includes seventeen municipal governments and has a large federal government presence with 26 federal agencies represented (See Figure 1). The region has a population that exceeds 1.7 million and is home to the deepest water harbor on the U.S. East Coast. Hampton Roads' economy is dependent on the local waterways and houses the world's largest naval facility, the sixth largest containerized cargo complex and supports a thriving shipbuilding and repair industry as well as a tourism industry. However, the region's vast coastline also contributes to its vulnerability from climate change.

Hampton Roads is experiencing sea level rise at twice the global rate with regional projections in the January 2017 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) report, Global and Regional Sea Level Rise Scenarios for the United States, of 1.9 feet of sea level rise at the low end and 11.5 feet of sea level rise under the most extreme case between 2000 and 2100 (NOAA, 2017). Planning for adaptation to sea level rise requires regional partnerships and strategies, especially for watersheds that cross municipal boundaries.

While many of the municipalities in the region are forward thinking in their approaches to sea level rise, there is not a regional plan for adaptation and current federal funding models do not support analysis of and planning for sea level rise impacts on a regional scale. For coastal communities to be successful in sea level rise adaptation, there has to be a national understanding that water knows no borders and only collaborative problem-solving approaches that cross municipal boundaries will move regions toward adaptation. Functional boundaries of ecosystems or watersheds need to be the focus of adaptation rather than political boundaries of local, state, and federal entities. Coordination and collaboration between entities is the only way to achieve optimal outcomes.

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Author notes

1. Carol Considine, Assistant Dean & Associate Professor, Batten College of Engineering & Technology, Old Dominion University,

2. Emily Steinhilber, Research Assistant Professor, Commonwealth Center for Recurrent Flooding Resiliency, Old Dominion University.