The campaign to save Jamestown is well underway – Daily Press

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JAMESTOWN – The non-profit organization that manages the site of North America’s first permanent English settlement at Jamestown is pushing ahead with measures to preserve the increasingly flood-prone site.

James Horn, president and CEO of the Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation, detailed how climate change poses an ‘urgent and imminent’ risk to the 415-year-old settlement site as he outlined a rescue plan during from a recent presentation at James City County. Board of Supervisors. Horn has asked the county for advice on launching a major fundraising campaign as Jamestown Rediscovery seeks help from local and state lawmakers.

“We’re dealing with something beyond what a small nonprofit can fix on its own,” added Michael Lavin, director of collections and curation for Jamestown Rediscovery.

The fundraising campaign of more than 30 million dollars, SaveJamestown, was announced after the historic site was placed on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 2022 list of America’s Most Endangered Places in May. The Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation project team developed an action plan that focused on repairing the existing seawall, raising roads, pathways and buildings, installing new flood berms and improvement of infrastructure.

Already, a seawall repair project adding 96,000 tons of granite to the wall is underway.

“You know the challenges we face. These are urgent and imminent challenges,” Horn told the board. “We’re aiming to get all of this up and running in the next five years.”

Horn stressed the foundation’s determination to save the site, but said action to protect Jamestown from relentless sea level rise is a “big project” that will be expensive.

“This is a call to action, the start of our campaign to save Jamestown. We know it’s a long way to go because it’s a lot of money. For that, we need to reach out to these multiple state and congressional agencies,” Horn said.

Lavin and Dave Givens, director of archeology, said the scale of the problem Jamestown faces from flooding is enormous. Increased flooding, land subsidence, extreme storms, rising aquifer and aging infrastructure all contribute to the island’s challenges. Lavin said the historic site now floods five or six times a year, most recently on May 10 when the trails were underwater.

“Hardly anyone in the world would know about Jamestown,” Givens said. “But we are fighting an uphill battle with sea level rise.”

James City County’s updated property mapping tool shows 7.5 acres of new wetlands on the property that were previously dry, Lavin said. Measurements of sea level rise at Sewells Point in Norfolk since 1929 show a rise of 1.6ft over the past 93 years. Flooding is expected to become normal on Jamestown Island by 2075 or 2080.

“Now that we know the situation, we can’t ignore what’s happening to the property and we need to intervene,” Lavin said.

The seawall repair project is expected to be completed in two weeks, but more fundamental work is needed on the island, according to Lavin.

Lavin cited the Ohio Creek Watershed project in Norfolk. The city received $112 million through a federal grant under the National Disaster Resilience Competition to leave and protect the neighborhoods of Chesterfield Heights and Granby Village.

“We are drawing a line in the mud to solve this problem and hit it head-on. We are not complaining about the situation in which we find ourselves. We know we have to act and that’s what we hope to do,” Lavin said. He said flood repairs would cost “just north of $30 million”.

The project team is working closely with VHB, an engineering group based in James City County, on a comprehensive plan to save Jamestown.

“It is very important to protect the island. It all started here,” supervisor Michael Hipple said. “I think this site is valuable to the United States as a whole.”

“Your organization is vitally important to us as a community, to the nation and to the world,” board chairman John McGlennon told Horn. “We very much appreciate your being here and are confident that we will provide all possible support to help achieve the goals you have set.”

“Losing our nation’s history would be so detrimental. You can’t come back after that,” supervisor Ruth Larson said.

David Macaulay, davidmacaulayva@gmail.com

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