Leaders Seek Solutions to Protect Tangier Island From Climate Change Threat

May 30 Visit Convenes Federal, State, and Local Officials to Confront Sea Level Rise and Erosion Challenges

Seeking solutions for Tangier Island, one of the country’s communities most at risk from sea level rise, federal, state, and local officials met on Tangier Island on May 30 with Tangier community leaders and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF).  

The officials visited sites by boat where land is being lost due to sea level rise and erosion, followed by a discussion that explored challenges and solutions for the island. Tangier Island has lost about two-thirds of its land since the 1850s, and research finds that much of the rest of the island could be lost within 50 years.  

At this meeting, partners discussed working with the Tangier community to develop a state-certified resilience plan for the Tangier Island system, including neighboring Port Isobel Island. The plan would help the community secure funding and implement projects to protect this unique place. An existing partnership between CBF and Old Dominion University’s Institute for Coastal Adaptation and Resilience can support Tangier in pursuing this plan.  

“Nowhere is the ever-present threat of climate change felt more strongly than on Tangier Island,” said CBF President Hilary Harp Falk. “Now is the time to stand with Tangier and all the coastal communities along the Chesapeake Bay facing unimaginable change.”  

The Tangier visit included representatives from Tangier, the Virginia state government, the Accomack-Northampton Planning District Commission, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Norfolk District, and academic institutions and nonprofit organizations. 

“I’m very encouraged,” Tangier Mayor James Eskridge said following the meeting. “To accomplish something, it’s vital to get different groups working together on the same page.” 

Next steps for the future of Tangier could encompass the following:  

  • Working with the Tangier community to develop a certified resilience plan; 
  • Identifying federal, state and private funding opportunities for projects to protect the island; 
  • Investing in an engineering study for mitigation and resiliency strategies for Tangier Island; 
  • Beginning implementation while community infrastructure on Tangier can still be saved; 
  • Assessing the viability of using beneficial dredge spoils to protect the island; 
  • Including nature-based coastal adaptation strategies, including living shorelines of marsh grasses and oysters that protect shorelines from erosion while creating wildlife habitat and reducing pollution; 
  • Sharing strategies and outcomes with other coastal communities throughout the watershed and across the country. 

Work on Tangier Island can serve as a model for nature-based practices for climate change mitigation and adaptation along the Chesapeake Bay and beyond.  

“With a clear plan and the right investment, we can preserve Tangier and neighboring Smith Island for at least another generation,” said Harp Falk. “These islands are a fantastic place to demonstrate solutions for what responsible climate adaptation can look like.” 

With a CBF environmental education center near Tangier on Port Isobel Island, this living laboratory would also provide the opportunity to educate the next generation about innovative, large-scale restoration efforts to protect the Bay and its communities in the face of climate change. 


Vanessa Remmers

Virginia Communications & Media Relations Manager, CBF

[email protected]

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