Melanie Davenport, Head of the DEQ Water Division

Melanie Davenport speaking with the VCPC students.

  The head of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Water Division, Melanie Davenport, returned to William & Mary Law School on February 12. On this snowy day, she joked that she chose William & Mary for law school after completing her undergraduate studies at Boston University because she “was sick and tired of the cold and snow” in New England. However, Davenport braved the wintry weather to come speak to the Virginia Coastal Policy Clinic about her career. Davenport has been the head of the DEQ’s Water Division since spring 2011, but her career path has been anything but predictable. “I haven’t been in court since the day I was sworn into the Bar,” says Davenport. She holds a bachelor’s degree in marine biology, and as an undergraduate participated in a … [Read more...]

Ann Swanson, Executive Director of the Chesapeake Bay Commission

Ann Swanson speaking at William & Mary Law School.

In the 1960s and 70s, Ann Swanson says the critical state of the Chesapeake Bay was clearly visible. Swanson, the Executive Director of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, visited the Virginia Coastal Policy Clinic (VCPC) and the Student Environmental and Animal Law Society at William & Mary Law School as a guest speaker on February 5. Although Swanson is a native of Long Island, she has worked on issues in the Chesapeake Bay watershed for over 30 years. She argues that the Chesapeake Bay is an incredible national resource even when compared with Long Island Sound, which “used to ship oysters back to the Queen.” The Bay is also incredibly vulnerable to environmental changes and human use because of its expansive watershed. Reflecting on a frequent occurrence of several decades ago, Swanson described a “jubilee” of blue … [Read more...]

Conservation Dialogues: Attorney General’s Office

Deputy Attorney General Daniel and Senior Assistant Attorney General Rhode speak at the first Conservation Dialogues

On Wednesday, January 28, the Virginia Coastal Policy Clinic (VCPC) and the Student Environmental and Animal Law Society collaborated to invite Deputy Attorney General John Daniel and Senior Assistant Attorney General Lynne Rhode for the first of a series of Conservation Dialogues. This series will be held the last Wednesday of every month through April at the William & Mary Law School. Here’s what some attendees had to say about the experience: "Deputy Attorney General Daniel has a uniquely deep understanding of, and history with, coastal policy issues in Virginia, having been the first Secretary of Natural Resources, an advisor to numerous Governors, and a private practice attorney for several prominent law firms.  His interest in sharing this history with William & Mary law students, and seeking their perspectives on … [Read more...]

Senator Kaine, Gov. McAuliffe’s Chief Resiliency Officer Appointment Featured at W&M Adaptation Conference

Virginia’s Senator Tim Kaine was keynote speaker at the 2nd annual Virginia Coastal Policy Clinic Conference.

“I’m so excited to see you doing this today at William & Mary through the auspices of the law school,” said U.S. Senator for Virginia Tim Kaine. “So many folks gathered to tackle the particular challenges we face in Virginia and how to deal with sea level rise and climate the right way, not the wrong way.” Kaine provided the keynote address at the second annual conference on “Adaptive Planning for Flooding and Coastal Change in Virginia: Next Steps for the Commonwealth” hosted by the Virginia Coastal Policy Clinic on December 5. The conference brought together policymakers, scientists, business owners, members of nonprofits, and students to discuss progress and future efforts that Virginia’s coasts will need to adapt to long-term change in sea levels. The conference included a meeting of the Governor’s Climate … [Read more...]

VCPC Students to Speak at “Adaptive Planning for Flooding and Coastal Change in Virginia”

James headshot

Two Virginia Coastal Policy Clinic (VCPC) students will be featured as panelists during the “Adaptive Planning for Flooding and Coastal Change in Virginia” conference this Friday, December 5 at the William & Mary School of Business. They’ll present during a panel on FEMA, National Flood Insurance Program’s Community Rating System, and Local Government Liability. This panel will focus on FEMA reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program and how local government can respond to these changes through stormwater management actions and address the potential for liability. James Andris, a fall 2014 VCPC student, will discuss the findings of his white paper, Potential Liability for Failure to Adapt to Recurrent Flooding. James analyzed the legal framework of the Farmer’s Insurance Group’s lawsuit against Chicago and its … [Read more...]

Emergency Preparedness and Response in Norfolk, VA


  People are drawn to life near the water for scenic views and access to recreational activities such as fishing and swimming. However, Jim Redick says, coastal residents are having to learn to take the good with the bad as sea level rises: “The water brings us our prosperity…but there are things we are going to have to accept if we are going to live with it.” Redick, the Director of Emergency Preparedness and Response for the City of Norfolk, spoke to the VCPC students on October 30 about his work in coordinating the City’s response to recurrent flooding and other emergencies —even disasters. Disasters such as flooding and extreme storm events require coordination among agencies to get a timely and orchestrated response. Redick works to identify gaps in capabilities and help the community communicate to … [Read more...]

Recurrent Flooding in Norfolk, VA

Mary-Carson Stiff explains the effects of flooding along Norfolk's coastal properties.

Even during a cloudless day at low tide, evidence of flooding was easy to see in Norfolk, VA. Patches of grass were eroded from saltwater inundation; the invasive Phragmites dominated the shoreline vegetation; and there was standing water in the streets along waterways. “The Norfolk trip really underscored how the problem of recurrent flooding is not just a seasonal or storm-related issue,” says VCPC student Jeremy Forrest. “Sea level rise is causing the flooding to be a weekly or even daily nuisance around the entire city.” On October 28, VCPC students and staff traveled to Norfolk, VA, to see firsthand the impacts of recurrent flooding in the city and learn about Wetlands Watch’s new sea level rise app from Mary-Carson Saunders Stiff. Stiff is a graduate of the William & Mary Law School and the Clinic and is … [Read more...]

Joint Legislative Subcommittee on Recurrent Flooding and Climate Change and Resiliency Update Commission

VCPC students with the Governor at the reception from left to right: Jeremy Forrest, Governor McAuliffe, Ben Willis, Toren Elsen, Garrett Gee, and Hannah Fish.

          VCPC students with the Governor at the reception from left to right: Jeremy Forrest, Governor McAuliffe, Ben Willis, Toren Elsen, Garrett Gee, and Hannah Fish.  On September 10, Virginia Coastal Policy Clinic (VCPC) students and staff had the opportunity to travel to Richmond, VA, to attend meetings of the Joint Legislative Subcommittee on Recurrent Flooding and Governor McAuliffe’s Climate Change and Resiliency Update Commission. The students heard different points of view on coastal issues from a diverse group of stakeholders and saw Virginia’s highest ranking official strongly advocate for progress on climate change and recurrent flooding. Says Garrett Gee, a VCPC student this semester, “It was an honor to witness firsthand the Governor's commitment to protecting … [Read more...]

Toren Elsen Bio

Toren headshot

Toren Elsen is taking the Virginia Coastal Policy Clinic course this year after working for five years as a paralegal at Beveridge & Diamond environmental law firm in Washington, DC, and spending last summer with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Water Enforcement Division. Toren hopes to gain practical experience with local—rather than federal—government agencies through his work with the Clinic. “The Clinic is one of the standout environmental programs that William & Mary has to offer,” says Toren. Toren will be working with the Virginia Environmental Endowment, a foundation that provides grants for environmental work in the state, to analyze Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs). SEPs “offer a really good potential way to have enforcement actions help the environment instead of only being a … [Read more...]

Sean Smiley Bio

Sean headshot

Sean Smiley enjoys the analytical thinking and argument necessary for a successful legal career. One of the most fascinating aspects of the law, he says, is the different approaches and variables that lead to “things not necessarily always having one right answer.” Sean hopes to pursue a career involving resource management, land use policy, and other environmental issues resulting from human influences. As a student in the Virginia Coastal Policy Clinic this fall, Sean will be examining issues with inherited property in the face of sea level rise. Many rural communities in Virginia have a number of properties that will be heavily impacted by sea level rise in the coming years. If the property owner dies intestate (without a will), descendants collectively inherit the real estate in question. In these situations, over time, the … [Read more...]

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