Scientists study floodgates at south end of Chesapeake Bay

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) – Scientists are studying what would happen if a series of floodgates are built across the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay.

The  Virginian-Pilot reports a team led by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science are trying to find out the consequences of a potential 24-mile-long network of barriers between Virginia Beach and the southern tip of the Eastern Shore.

Institute scientist Molly Mitchell says the purpose is to mesh existing models of storm-surge flooding, water circulation and the bay’s ecosystem. The findings could then be used when future large flood-protection projects are considered.

Institute professor Jian Shen says early findings indicate the barrier would do little to ease flooding from Nor’easters moving from north to south because water would end up getting stuck behind the wall, causing flood problems.

The scientists have made some early findings. For example, the barrier would do little to ease flooding from nor’easters, which push water down the bay from north to south. That water would end up getting stuck behind the wall and would cause flooding problems, said Jian Shen, a Virginia Institute of Marine Science professor.

It would work better for hurricanes, but the level of success would depend on the storm’s track.

The floodgates would negatively impact the mixing of water in the bay, which would decrease oxygen levels, a particularly problematic situation for bottom dwellers such as the blue crab, said Donna Bilkovic, an institute professor.

But maybe the flood protection would be worth it.

Bilkovic said, “The question becomes, ‘What’s an acceptable trade-off?'”

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