Elevation and Floodproofing Workshop Advances Flood Mitigation

Posted on: April 12th, 2019 by Brent Gotsch
A workshop participant observes an engineered flood vent at the Elevation and Floodproofing Workshop held on March 26 and 27, 2019. Photo by Tim Koch.

A workshop participant observes an engineered flood vent at the Elevation and Floodproofing Workshop held on March 26 and 27, 2019. Photo by Tim Koch.

 

Potentially thousands of structures across the NYC West of Hudson Watershed are located within mapped FEMA floodplains. Many are located in downtown hamlet areas and are vital to the local economy. More intense flood events and rising flood insurance rates are threatening these structures and the communities that rely on them for tax base, habitation, economic activity, and sense of place.

Property owners in flood zones are advised to reduce their flood risks and take action. A range of risk reduction measures are being tested and implemented across the country. The Ashokan Watershed Stream Management Program brought speakers with national expertise to the region on March 26 and 27 to deliver a workshop for local officials to learn more about elevation and floodproofing of structures. The workshop was held at the Emerson Inn in Mount Tremper and attended by nearly 50 building department and other officials from Ulster, Greene, Sullivan, and Delaware counties.

The workshop featured presenters from Ducky Johnson Home Elevations out of Harahan, LA, and consultants recently retired from the NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“Every dollar spent on mitigation saves six dollars in recovery costs,” said Rod Scott of Ducky Johnson. “Elevation and dry flood proofing are proven flood hazard mitigation techniques used to reduce flood risk and flood insurance premiums,” he said.

In the 2018 hurricane season alone, U.S. territories experienced 15 storms and 8 hurricanes responsible for $50 billion in damage. In response to this “new normal” of billions in annual losses due to property damage, Congress has mandated flood insurance rate hikes for structures with mortgages in the FEMA floodplain.

“Elevating or floodproofing structures provides a way for communities to keep their building stock, and their tax base stable while also decreasing flood insurance premiums for the owners and lessening their risk of flood-related damage,” said Brent Gotsch, Resource Educator for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ulster County and organizer of the workshop. “With increasing precipitation patterns and more damaging flood events, it’s vital that communities consider using these methods to adapt and become more resilient,” he added.

Elevation and Floodprooging Workshop participants view an elevated home in Mount Tremper, NY. Photo by Brent Gotsch

Elevation and Floodproofing Workshop participants view an elevated home in Mount Tremper, NY. Photo by Brent Gotsch

 

During the workshop, local code officials learned the differences between wet and dry floodproofing and effective elevation methods for structures. They learned how these practices change flood insurance premiums and how simple measures such as filling-in a basement can reduce premiums by hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

A bus tour showed participants local examples of structures retrofitted with elevation and floodproofing measures. At one property, watertight shields were installed to prevent water from flowing into the living area. Another stop featured a residence with engineered “smart vents” that allow water to safely flow underneath the structure’s first floor and equalize potentially dangerous pressures that could buckle the foundation.

At the end of the workshop, local officials left with increased knowledge about how to properly retrofit floodprone structures. Going forward, county partners plan to work with local municipalities to identify and access funding for elevation and floodproofing projects and minimize costs to property owners.

Additional presentations by the Catskill Watershed Corporation, the NYS Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, and FEMA informed participants about potential funding opportunities for elevation and floodproofing projects. Presenters walked through the application process and gave advice on how to create a strong application.

Funding for the workshop was provided by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection.

A manager of a local bank branch shows Elevation and Floodproofing Workshop participants how they install the floodproofing barriers. Photo by Tim Koch.

The manager of a local bank branch shows Elevation and Floodproofing Workshop participants how they install floodproofing barriers. Photo by Tim Koch.

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