By Roderick Scott
This is Part 2 of a series covering the Keeping History Above Water conference held April 10–13 in Newport, Rhode Island. [Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4]
History Above Water featured a variety of education workshops aimed at
giving attendees the opportunity to explore conference topics in depth.
The issues at hand are significant, particularly two horizons that are
approaching at different speeds.
The first and most critical is
the removal of the National Flood Insurance Policy (NFIP) rate subsidies
for pre–flood map buildings, which takes effect in 2016. These
buildings have enjoyed subsidized flood policy rates since the NFIP was
started in the late 1960s, and the impending increases will impact
different classes of buildings at different rates. Primary homes will
experience the lowest insurance rate increase of 12 percent per year.
Nonprofit organizations’ rates will increase 19 percent per year, and
all income-producing/commercial buildings, as well as nonprimary
residential buildings, will see increases of 25 percent per year.
level rise is on quite a different timeline. Projections vary widely
from 1.5 to 6 feet of sea level rise by the year 2100. Flood proofing or
elevating our coastal historic buildings may allow us to enjoy them
longer, but the bottom line is that we need to reduce flood risk and
keep our historic buildings’ flood insurance affordable.
|There is an approximately six-foot difference between sea level rise predictions generated using historic, long-term-average rates (measured since 1938) and predictions based on recorded accelerated rates (measured since 1990). Pam Rubinoff and Coastal Resources Center staff painted the historic and the predicted rates for the years between 2015 and 2100 on a six-foot stick to visually represent the impact of acceleration. | Credit: Ryan T. Conaty
The city of Annapolis conducted a half-day planning exercise workshop
about historic resources hazard mitigation plans. Making sure that
historic resources are included in the community/regional hazard
mitigation plan is essential so that those resources may be eligible for
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) pre- and post-disaster
funding; it can also help secure other sources of funding where
available. Most communities do not have a plan for hazard mitigation of
their historic resources, but they should. A number of sessions at
Keeping History Above Water addressed these issues.
- The Site Specific Inundation Threat Assessment and Climate Change Adaptation
session was led by several National Park Service staff from the Gateway
National Recreation Area in New Jersey and New York. They have been
assessing damages from Hurricane Sandy, looking ahead at climate
change/sea level rise issues, and rebuilding priorities and
implementation plans. Given how many structures there are in Gateway
Park, evaluating risk and adaptation for these buildings is a complex
- The Game of Floods—Historic Preservation Version
was framed as a board game. Players were tasked with providing flood
mitigation solutions to make a hypothetical historic community more
resilient. The session illustrated the multiplicity of variables
involved in mitigating flood hazards for a single community.
#SeaLevelRise #Sustainability #PreservationGreenLab #ClimateChange
|A team of conference participants beta-testing the Game of Floods: Preservation Edition, a public education activity on sea level resiliency developed by Alex Westhoff from the Marin County Community Development Agency in collaboration with the National Trust.| Credit: Frank Mullin
- During Navigating the Unknown: Disaster Planning for Historic Properties,
experts in both historic preservation and disaster planning shared
vital information on how best to plan for the unexpected. This workshop
focused on using a disaster checklist as well as assessing water-related
vulnerabilities.Presenters underscored the need for a long-term
strategy to navigate this complicated funding and preparedness landscape
and ensure a positive outcome for historic properties. In addition the
audience was provided with a basic understanding of flood insurance
requirements and learned how recent changes to insurance premiums might
impact historic properties.
- The Innovation in Resilience Financing
session went in depth regarding the broad funding need surrounding
flood hazard mitigation. Urbanized coastal communities face immense
resource-management challenges in the era of climate change. In
particular protecting natural, historic, and economic resources from the
impacts and risk associated with sea level rise and major storm events
are priorities that loom large on a physical and political landscape
that is constantly evolving. The session featured an important
discussion about the possibility of using revenue bonding to make
private property compliant with FEMA flood elevation requirements.
- Finally, a session called Flood Hazard Mitigation Toolkit:Climate Change Adaptation of Historic Resources explored the unique challenges historic buildings face.
Historic buildings constructed before flood maps had been drawn are now
losing the discounts for flood insurance policies even as the future
promises higher sea levels. Thus, flood hazard mitigation adaptation is
important to reducing both the risk of flooding and the cost of flood
insurance for a historic building. The first part of this session
reviewed the planning side of flood mitigation, including plan
development, review, and submission for permitting. Staff at historic
buildings need to work with historic preservation commissions to ensure
the design of appropriate, attractive, and long-lasting flood mitigation
retrofitting of the buildings. The session also explored flood map
elevation height requirements, civil engineering standards for
designers, architectural designing, building codes, local flood
ordinance requirements, open versus enclosed foundations, flood venting
requirements for enclosures, and project scope of work and financing.
some were not initially convinced that their communities—or even
preservation leaders themselves—were comfortable seeing physical changes
to these historic buildings, the conference moved attendees toward
acknowledging that this might be necessary to protect and preserve
historic resources. Keeping History Above Water was an important step
for moving historic preservation into the era of climate change,
shepherding the adaptation of our irreplaceable historic resources.
Roderick Scott is a certified floodplain manager with L & R Resources LLC.