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This spring, Norfolk State University (NSU) announced a partnership with the Elizabeth River Project, which recently celebrated the groundbreaking of an $8 million living laboratory and learning park designed to respond to sea-level rise and urban flooding.

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According to NSU, the partnership between the university and the Elizabeth River Project will establish an equity model for environmental restoration in the Chesapeake Bay area.

“Together, we are planning for the NSU-Elizabeth River Project Incubator for Environmental Justice,” said Dr. Michael O. Keeve, dean of the College of Science, Engineering, and Technology. “Understanding the historical context of the rivers, the communities that live near waterways, and the perspective of those living in those communities will be incorporated into an environmental justice mapping tool.”

Keeve said the overall objective would be to expand the capacity of community-wide partners engaged in restoring the Elizabeth River and sustaining the motivation of communities in vulnerable areas to participate in water quality improvements.

The Louis & Pru Ryan Resilience Laboratory was built in a floodplain to demonstrate how to live and work in the urban flood plain to protect the ecosystem as seas rise. Additionally, NSU art students will interpret in the artwork displayed at the site what biology students see through their research.

Located in Norfolk’s North Colley Avenue business corridor along Knitting Mill Creek, the resilience lab will be an environmental hub for community outreach.

The lab will feature resilience and sustainability for homeowners, small businesses, and developers; Environmentally sustainable construction, and a research display in a waterside park for the public to explore urban communities.

The groundbreaking ceremony culminated with the release of three rehabilitated brown pelicans, an almost extinct species, to symbolize new hope for the Elizabeth River.

“This,” said Norfolk Mayor Kenneth Alexander, “is one of the most promising projects to come about in my life for a healthy Elizabeth River.”

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