NORFOLK, Va. — Norfolk city officials said keeping water in the waterways and out of homes is a battle every time there is heavy rain.
Now the Ohio Creek Watershed Project, a $112 million effort to prevent the Elizabeth River from flooding two neighborhoods, is complete.
In years past, those in the more than 400 homes in Historic Chesterfield Heights and 300 public housing units in Grandy Village had reason to worry about their neighborhoods.
“We’d ask where would we be in the next 20 years? Are we going to be underwater or are we going to be above ground?” said Raytron White, Grandy Village’s tenant management council president.
Since the final touches were made on the Resilience Park, the final stage of the project, folks in the area are looking to the future.
“Our neighborhoods are a better place to be,” said White.
“Resilience” is more than the name of the park—it speaks to the efforts to build a community that can now effectively weather the storms.
“I think resiliency means a lot of different things depending on where you’re at in the state,” said Travis Voyles, the Virginia Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources. “Here, down in Hampton Roads, they deal with it every day, looking at coastal flooding, dealing with water issues.”
Previously one of two roads in the neighborhood became completely impassable during flood events.
Now, water will flow through special bricks and away from homes through new underground drainpipes. Rising waters will be stopped by berms and various wetland areas. The project connected the neighborhoods to community spaces and the rest of the city too.
“It kind of has everything all packaged together so you have the flood protection and also these amenities baked into the project,” said Kyle Spencer, the chief resilience officer with the City of Norfolk.
That’s not all that’s come from the project.
“We have children that now know about the waterways. Residents are very in tune and educated about the flood zones and how water could damage our neighborhood,” said White.
“This is really environmental justice at ground zero for us in Norfolk,” added Spencer.
City leaders say this project prepared them for larger storm resilience projects.
Norfolk’s next big flood project will be a city-wide system of flood control measures with the Army Corps of Engineers. The city expects to break ground on that next year.