Virginia Coastal Policy Center Helps Communities RAFT toward Resiliency

Rafts are useful things. They float, transport people and goods, and serve as resting places.

Another kind of raft helps Virginia communities increase resilience to rising coastal waters.

The Resilience Adaptation Feasibility Tool (The RAFT) is an innovative “collective impact” collaborative approach to climate resilience. Launched in 2017 by the Virginia Coastal Policy Center (VCPC) at William & Mary Law School, the University of Virginia’s Institute for Engagement & Negotiation and Old Dominion University’s Virginia Sea Grant Resilience Program, the RAFT leverages expertise and resources of multidisciplinary partners and diverse stakeholders to assist coastal localities striving to increase their resilience.

The three-university team has served a number of areas in Virginia, successfully implementing the RAFT on the Eastern Shore and Northern Neck to improve community resilience to coastal hazards.

The team currently is working with localities in the Middle Peninsula of Virginia. During a kick-off workshop last January, representatives of six localities (the counties of King William, King and Queen, Middlesex, Essex, and Mathews, and the Town of West Point) convened to discuss the results of VCPC Practicum I students’ scoring of the resiliency of the localities’ projects and policies, using the specialized RAFT  resiliency scorecards.

The local representatives then identified actions to pursue over the course of a year to increase their resilience, supported by the RAFT team convening monthly meetings of community residents and representatives of state agencies and nonprofit organizations who work together to accomplish the actions on the lists..

In order to increase impacts in socially vulnerable communities, the RAFT team also created a regional Social Equity Workgroup in early 2022 with funding from the Jessie Ball duPont Fund. The workgroup will distribute mini-grants to community organizations in the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula serving historically excluded and underserved populations, with the goal of informing equitable resilience planning in the region more broadly.

Led by Professor of the Practice and Director Elizabeth Andrews and her team, VCPC’s efforts provide science-based law and policy analysis over a wide geographical area. In addition to the RAFT, recent projects include:

  • Leveraging a Jessie Ball duPont Fund grant to VCPC and VIMS to determine sea level rise impacts on wastewater systems and identify law and policy solutions to support coastal localities;
  • Researching policies based on habitat analysis to inform conservation of species affected by climate change;
  • Examining law and policy questions surrounding potential offshore aquaculture farming around wind energy installations;
  • Working with VIMS on a NOAA grant project to help coastal localities assess infrastructure vulnerabilities to flooding and develop adaptation strategies; and
  • Analyzing policy approaches for localities to manage complex challenges associated with solar utility siting.

William & Mary Law students working with VCPC find it a challenging and rewarding experience as they engage with topical environmental legal issues presenting real challenges to Virginia.

“The lasting impact of our work is testified in the lives of the people it effects and the reach it has around the Commonwealth,” said Nate Dominy ’22. “I have been immensely fortunate to work with VCPC for my entire third year of law school. I hope that I can find similar work opportunities everywhere I go in the rest of my legal career.”

VCPC relies on private support to develop its programs and expand its mission. If you would like to support VCPC’s efforts, please make a gift on our secure giving page.

About VCPC

VCPC was founded to advance informed decision making about coastal policy issues and educate the next generation of citizen lawyers working in Virginia communities. VCPC connects with a diverse array of partners on public- and privately funded grants yielding important science-based policy research and analysis that Virginia stakeholders consistently leverage to improve the Commonwealth’s resilience.