HEAD ABOVE WATER: John Tregenza, general manager of the Watch Hill Boat Yard in Westerly, says an empty ground-floor story will help protect the recently completed building in the event of flooding. The boatyard opted out of flood insurance.
At its new elevation, the redesigned Watch Hill Boat Yard office and boaters’ lounge rests gracefully at the mouth of the Pawcatuck River near Little Narragansett Bay. The footprint is the same as the previous office that was built flat on the ground before the 1950s, but this new two-story structure has an entire one-story open space below the first floor.
“With the new building regulations, we had to elevate at least 4 feet to get to the required 13-foot elevation – we’re kind of on a knoll. But 4 feet would have just given us a crawl space,” said Watch Hill Boat Yard General Manager John Tregenza. “So by going higher, we have a full story on ground level. It’s not habitable space, but we put picnic tables under there and we can keep our dock carts there.”
There’s a purpose to this elevation, in addition to Westerly’s building regulations.
“We decided not to buy flood insurance. We’re flood-proof,” said Tregenza. “In the event of a flood, the water would rush through that first level. All the mechanicals are on the second level.”
Elevation is one of the options in the new reality that’s come with the redrawing of Federal Emergency Management Agency flood maps, which are being phased in, and the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform and Modernization Act of 2012 that went into effect in October 2013. The latter was intended to put the Federal Flood Insurance Program on solid footing after it was drained by Hurricane Katrina and other disasters, although some provisions of that act were recently delayed by Congress.
Businesses that had subsidized premiums now will have a 25 percent increase in premiums every year until it reaches the actuarial, or full-risk, premium rate, according to Peter Gibb, senior vice president and personal-lines manager for Starkweather & Shepley Insurance Brokerage Inc.
A bill under consideration in the Senate last week would delay rate increases for up to four years. The House has yet to act on the measure, called the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act. Under current law, “If a business is getting a new policy, they need an elevation certificate,” Gibb said.