What is Hampton doing about flooding?For the Record Flooding

Hampton experiences both rainfall flooding, from heavy and intense storms, and tidal flooding, from storm systems that essentially push water from the ocean and the bay into rivers and ditches. Because many parts of the city are low-lying, there just aren't many places for the water to go.

To help reduce flooding, Hampton is increasing the capacity of the storm drainage system and maintaining 80 outfall ditches and 196 miles of open ditches. Studies of watersheds in the city help identify which projects will be the most beneficial. And tide gauges have been installed on two waterways to help gather data and help with flooding predictions.

For the record, Hampton's education, outreach and legislative efforts have earned residents a reduction in flood-insurance rates. Residents can also get loans to make modifications to their homes that can further lower insurance rates.



Q: I've lived here a long time, and flooding seems to be much worse.

A: Of the top 20 flooding events in Hampton, 12 were in the past 30 years. Eight were in all the years before that. It doesn't take a hurricane to cause serious flooding; many of the more recent events were caused by nor'easters.

Q: How does the city identify what projects to undertake? 

A: We are looking at it scientifically. We have completed studies for 14 of 20 watersheds. A total of 82 projects were identified by these studies. These projects are prioritized based on ones that maximize credits toward meeting federal goals of stormwater quality (removing pollutants) at the lowest costs, and those that improve stormwater quantity by either increasing the capacity of the system or reducing flooding.

Q: How do stormwater projects help? What projects has the city done?

A: Hampton has spent approximately $8.9 million over 5 years on stormwater projects, with another $4 million budgeted for the next five years.

While these must meet the mandate of improving the quality of water before it flows into the Chesapeake Bay, many of these projects also will increase the capacity of the drainage system and may reduce the risk of flooding. These include:

  • Coliseum Lake Water Quality Retrofit — construction complete.
  • Mary Peake Outfall Drainage Improvements — under construction.
  • Berkshire Terrace Area Drainage Improvements — design complete; acquisition underway.
  • Winchester Drive Stream Restoration — design complete; acquisition under way.
  • Lynnhaven Lake Water Quality Retrofit — design substantially complete; acquisition underway.
  • Pochin Place/Indian River Creek Stormwater Basin — design substantially complete; acquisition underway.
  • The design and/or construction of 43 stormwater projects are in the plan for the next 5 years.

Q: How does/can the city reduce the individual cost of flood insurance for homeowners? 

A: The city participates in FEMA's Community Rating System, and the efforts earned residents a discount on flood insurance rates. The city earns "points" for various activities, including outreach efforts to educate residents about flood insurance and risk; building requirements; preparedness; damage reduction; and mapping. The program is periodically reviewed by FEMA, which could provide more reductions in the future.

Q: What kind of building requirements? 

A: New homes in flood zones have to be built a little higher. In 2014, the City Council approved raising the "freeboard," or the height of the first floor above the flood level, from 1 foot to 3 feet in flood zone areas. While it will add to the cost of new construction, those homeowners should see lower flood insurance costs. Because the city has adopted the requirement, property owners may see greater discounts on flood insurance.

Q: What about coastal flooding and erosion?

A: Several projects helped restore and protect beaches. Replacing sand on beaches and adding breakwaters to reduce the intensity of wave action reduce coastal erosion.

  • The Army Corps of Engineers, in partnership with the city, placed more than 327,000 cubic yards of sand on the publicly owned portion of Buckroe Beach from Pilot Avenue south about 3,800 feet to the vicinity of Point Comfort Avenue.
  • Additionally, four breakwaters (three at Buckroe and one at Salt Ponds) were constructed along the Chesapeake Bay shoreline.
  • The city restored Factory Point and installed four breakwaters in Grandview Nature Preserve.

Q: How are ditches maintained? 

  • There are approximately 80 outfall ditches that are inspected once a year and maintenance is completed on an as-needed basis. During the growing season, priority is given to the larger outfall ditches, as they carry the greatest volume of water. City stormwater crews are responsible for regrading the outfall ditches on a five- to seven-year cycle. Ditches that are affected by tidal waters require additional permitting and approval from federal and state agencies.
  • There are 196 miles of open ditches, street-side and off-street, that are inspected annually. Those requiring maintenance are cleaned twice a year; those with severe issues are scheduled more frequently.
  • All stormwater structures — curb drop inlets, yard drains, driveway pipes and piped ditches — are inspected and cleaned twice a year.

Q: What are we doing about Newmarket Creek? It seems to be one of the problem areas.

A: Tide gauges have been installed at the Hampton River on East Pembroke Avenue and at Newmarket Creek at Mercury Boulevard to gain more data about flooding. The city is able to obtain more accurate data from which to make critical decisions to protect the safety, health and welfare of citizens during tidal flooding events. Additionally, the data received from the tidal monitoring stations assist government agencies to more accurately predict tidal flooding. Data from the monitoring stations are publicly available near real-time.

Q: What about roads that flood?

A: Flooding is considered as a part of road upgrades or improvements. Currently, Hampton is improving Wythe Creek Road from Commander Shepard into Poquoson. The new bridge will have a higher elevation to address flooding problems.

Q: How does the Clean City Commission's efforts affect flooding?

A: Litter can increase flooding. When people dump trash or throw litter out a car window, much of it gets washed into ditches or small waterways. If ditches or outfall pipes are clogged with trash, water stops flowing and backs up. The commission encourages people not to litter in the first place, but also to help pick up what's already out there. Cleanups of small waterways help clear the trash from clogging outfall pipes — and also help the birds and marine life that live there.

Posted Feb. 7, 2018