Garrett Gee Bio

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Garrett Gee enrolled in the Virginia Coastal Policy Clinic this fall hoping to follow his passion for transportation and energy policy through the lens of environmental law. Garrett worked for the Department of Transportation last summer and sees the Clinic as a unique opportunity at William & Mary to focus on issues under local jurisdiction such as land use. During his time with the Clinic, Garrett will be writing a memorandum for the Chesapeake Bay Commission on how laws in other states have addressed sea level rise and its implications for property. “I am excited to work hand in hand with the Chesapeake Bay Commission to help advance legislative best practices that protect the Bay, the climate, and the economic health of Virginia,” says Garrett. The Commission is a tri-state legislative consortium that brings together … [Read more...]

Ben Willis Bio

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As a Suffolk, VA, resident, Ben experienced the direct impact of environmental resource management policies. While his family preferred to use grasses and native plantings to control shoreline erosion along their property, it was cost-prohibitive, and in his case, plantings would have been less effective than traditional, hard shoreline measures. Still, watching his family and others in this waterfront community implement shoreline erosion control sparked his interest in the legal components of conservation. “It’s a vicious cycle,” says Ben. “As we lose [aquatic vegetation], we lose the natural processes that prevent erosion and keep the Bay clean.” Now as a student in the Virginia Coastal Policy Clinic, the second-year William & Mary Law student is looking forward to working more directly with coastal policy issues. Ben … [Read more...]

National Geographic, Sea Level Rise, and Virginia’s Coasts: Part II: Navigating Economic Impacts and Solutions

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“As the planet warms, the sea rises.  Coastlines flood.  What will we protect?  What will we abandon?  How will we face the danger of rising seas?” Tim Folger’s popular National Geographic article focuses on the dangers of sea level rise across the planet, to which Virginia’s coasts will also be vulnerable. In addition to demonstrating that our planet’s coasts will be vulnerable, Folger goes on further to point out the economic risks rising seas pose and possible solutions for mitigating those risks. Folger thinks sea level rise is no longer a secret or something we can keep denying, but rather he thinks its a reality we will all need to face sooner or later.  As discussed in Part I of this Blog article, while Folger did not discuss the risks for Virginia specifically, the Virginia coasts are not immune to rising … [Read more...]

National Geographic, Sea Level Rise, and Virginia’s Coasts: Part I: The Threat is Real

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“As the planet warms, the sea rises.  Coastlines flood.  What will we protect?  What will we abandon?  How will we face the danger of rising seas?” In a recent and popular article, National Geographic’s Tim Folger addressed the dangerous effects of rising seas across the world.   The article focused on more extreme weather events resulting from climate change and was paired with an interactive map showing the dangers of sea level rise across the world.  While the article doesn’t focus on Virginia, it’s clear from the maps and general issues discussed that Virginia will not be exempt from the dangers of sea level rise. In the fall of 2012, the Northeast was devastated by Hurricane Sandy.  Through the course of its destruction, Hurricane Sandy managed to cause $19 billion in damages and the loss of forty-three … [Read more...]

Panel 3: “Perspectives from Law and Policy”

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  Professor Ronald Rosenberg (William & Mary Law School) moderated the third panel on Saturday. This panel discussed legal issues local governments will face when dealing with sea level rise. The panel was composed of Professor Peter Byrne (Georgetown Law Center), Professor John Echeverria (Vermont Law School), and Professor John Nolon (Pace Law School). Byrne started the panel by discussing Koontz v. St. Johns River Management District. According to him the three main constraints on local governments are 1) local politics, 2) state authorizing statutes, and 3) the takings clause, as interpreted by the US Supreme Court. Traditionally, the takings clause hasn't been that much of a limitation and was only invoked if regulation destroys all of the economic value of a property. However, based on Koontz,this could become more … [Read more...]

Lunch Keynote: Carl Hershner, VIMS, GIS Demonstration

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Carl Hershner gave a fantastic presentation on some of the GIS data being produced by VIMS. For me to describe the great maps that he showed in this blog post seems like it would be an effort in futility. So, instead I will point you towards VIMS, where you can explore some of the data and tools he explained for yourself. The Wetlands Mitigation Targeting Tool,  in particular, stood out to me as something worth exploring. In addition, Hershner's presentation is worth looking through to see the results that some of the tools and data can produce.   While most of the data Hershner shared is pretty cutting edge and up to date, he did note that the bathymetry data we have is quite out of date. To evidence this, he showed a map of the York River with the dates listed for each segment's most recently available bathymetry data; … [Read more...]

Panel 2: “From Power Lines to Ports: Protecting Critical Infrastructure”

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Mary-Carson Saunders Stiff moderated the second panel on Saturday. This panel discussed critical infrastructure (“CI”). The panel was composed of Mark Slauter (Virginia Department of Emergency Management), David White (Virginia Maritime Association), Speaker Pollard (Christian & Barton, LLC), Heather Wood (Virginia Port authority), and Trip Pollard (Southern Environmental Law Center). Mary-Carson started the panel off by asking the members to introduce themselves, give their definition of CI, and state their greatest concern related to protecting critical infrastructure.   Pollard (Trip) described CI as essential physical facilities (bridges, roads, ports, airports, natural gas lines, etc.) and said his greatest concern is that we are nowhere near ready for the problems we are already dealing with let alone what's … [Read more...]

Panel 1: “Federal Agency Vulnerability to Climate Change Risks:  What is at stake for the Hampton Roads Region?”


 The panel discussion started with each member giving some background information on the work they are doing relating to potential impacts from sea-level rise at their respective facilities.   Mr. Bundick’s job is to consider environmental involvement of any planned activities at the NASA / Wallops Island facility (Wallops).  This facility is located due west from Chincoteague, Virginia and is the only civilian run launch facility in the United States.  NASA/Wallops Island was established on July 4th, 1945 in response to Langley Research Center’s desire to find a safe location to test rockets.  It is a field base for Goddard Space Flight Center, which is a world leader in climate change and sea level rise research.  A number of other agencies have facilities within Wallops Island including NOAA, the U.S. Coast Guard … [Read more...]

“The Climate Change Challenge:  An Update from Washington” – Christina DeConcini, World Resources Institute


Ms. DeConcini is the Director of Government Affairs for the World Resources Institute (WRI).  WRI is an environmental think tank with its majority of work in developing countries, but also does work in climate change and sea level rise in the US as well.   Ms. DeConcini started out her presentation by touching on a few key items discussed during Friday’s session.  She stressed that while 1/3 of the United States is having an unusually cold weather this winter, it is all about trends and not single events or seasons.  To this she added the facts that the U.S. has had 346 consecutive months hotter than the 20th century average and this is the 37th consecutive year with temperatures above the global average.  These trends in global warming have had substantial and disastrous consequences.  Since 1980, $1 trillion have been … [Read more...]

“Climate Change, Resource and Infrastructure Use: Emerging Regional and International Law Issues” — Muna Mustafa H A Al-Marzouqi, SJD student at Tulane University Law School, Lecturer at Qatar University College of Law


Muna Mustafa H A Al-Marzouqi is a lecturer at the Qatar University School of Law  and along with two colleagues attended The Role of Law and Government in Protecting Communities from Extreme Weather and Coastal Flood Risks: Local, Regional, and International Perspectives to speak on Qatar’s involvement in coastal planning.  Muna was the first of the visiting Qatar scholars to speak and must have anticipated the audience’s limited knowledge of Qatar.   Admittedly, the Middle East isn’t the first region that comes to mind when you think about coastal flood management and Qatar as a single nation is even further off the radar.  As Muna was quick to note, however, that doesn’t mean Qatar is not concerned or focused on coastal flood management.  In a country where 90% of the population lives in coastal settlements and … [Read more...]

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