Conference Recap

By Carlo Urmy, NRF-US/ICOMOS Graduate Fellow

Keeping History Above Water 2017: Day 3

The third day of Keeping History Above Water: Annapolis began with a conversation about how the US Navy is responding to flooding and sea level rise, both at the Naval Academy in Annapolis and at the Naval Station in Norfolk, Virginia. Ray Toll, a retired Navy Captain spoke about the work he has done as Director of Coastal Resilience Research at Old Dominion University, and the importance of a “whole of government/whole of community” approach to planning and resiliency. Emil Petruncio, another retired Captain, spoke about his work planning for sea level rise at the Naval Academy, a place of great strategic and cultural importance which is experiencing increasing levels of nuisance flooding. Lisa Craig, Chief of Historic Preservation for Annapolis, spoke about her work on Annapolis’ Weather it Together initiative. This talk highlighted how communities can use hazard mitigations plans, which need to be updated regularly, as a “hook” to begin thinking about broader adaptation strategy. She also described the importance of reaching out to the community in new ways, especially since FEMA’s 2005 guidelines require determining “public sentiment” regarding historic resources.

Codes were another important topic of discussion. Kevin Wagner of the Maryland Department of the Environment laid out some of the federal and local codes that regulate development in floodplains and coastal areas. Later on, Noah Slovin of Milone & MacBroom Inc., discussed the regulatory gaps that exist between preservation planning and hazard mitigation planning. Of the communities he looked at in Connecticut, he found that there was little overlap between the two fields: plans for hazard mitigation rarely mentioned historic resources, and vice versa. Designers Tony Daniels and Caitlin Martusewicz spoke about how codes translate into urban form following hurricanes, using the example of Gerritsen Beach, a community in New York heavily effected by Sandy.

Throughout the day, a number of speakers shared case studies about planning for, or responding to flooding. Peter Britz and Nicolas Cracknell, planners from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, spoke about their experiences in creating a Historic Resources Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment and Adaptation Plan for their community. Chris Cerino, the Mayor of Chesterown, Maryland spoke about his efforts to maintain a working waterfront in a small community of 5,200 people on the Chester River. Samantha Kuntz, a preservation planner at AECOM spoke about the Fairmount Waterworks in Philadelphia, a National Register listed structure now used as an urban environmental education center. The structure is exposed to near-constant flooding, and Kuntz described how the organization has developed many interesting strategies for mitigating damage and living with water.

Another theme running throughout the day was the sometimes political nature of talking about and planning for sea level rise. Leslee Keys of Flagler College described the situation in Florida, a state profoundly threatened by sea level rise, but with a governor who refuses to recognize it as a legitimate issue. Clay Henderson of Stetson University spoke about how, in the absence of state leadership, four counties in South Florida have joined together to plan for sea level rise, and others have formed “Adaptation Action Areas” to try and mitigate its impacts. This theme continued in the closing remarks by Adam Markham of the Union of Concerned Scientists. Markham argued that the leaders in planning for climate change were local communities: cities, counties, and tribal governments that were taking action to protect their lifeways and cultural resources. Markham also praised the progress that had been made since the 2016 conference in Newport, even as greater action will be needed moving forward.

The 2017 Keeping History Above Water conference will conclude on day 4 with a number of panels and breakout sessions. Check out the conference program and list of speakers to see what is coming up!