New interactive planning map helps better serve environmental justice

Posted at 2:24 PM, Jul 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-24 22:46:59-04

NORFOLK, Va. - The Elizabeth River Project and its partners are addressing environmental justice with the click of a button.

"This tool is bringing together environmental concerns and then also social concerns. You can see where these issues overlap," said Molly Mitchell, Research Assistant Professor for the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.

Along with the folks at the ERP and William & Mary, Mitchell helped create the Interactive Environmental Justice Tool. The online map helps planners target vulnerable areas in Hampton Roads and brainstorm ways to make lasting, positive change.

"We can look at where underserved neighborhoods are being impacted by flooding and then look at measures that could reduce or offset the flooding into those neighborhoods," said Joe Rieger, Deputy Director of Restoration for the Elizabeth River Project. "We could actually do work in that neighborhood to increase tree canopy that's been shown to reduce temperatures in a neighborhood, provide slow traffic, and provide areas where people can meet and enjoy under a tree rather than in the hot sun."

The map allows you to zoom in and out on neighborhoods and select and deselect layers like infastructure and public and private access to the water.

"This allows us to make sure that we're not missing communities that might have issues that can be addressed," Rieger said.

Mitchell echoed, "We drill down into what makes an area vulnerable both environmentally and socially, but you also can get a very broad view of how that's distributed across the watershed."

ERP's Watershed Action Team will use this new tool to develop a community-wide action plan to improve the Elizabeth River and those who live around it.