20 Ideas OK’d To Protect City From Floods

Brian Virtue photoThomas Breen PhotoMore sand on Morris Cove’s beaches. Dunes turned into “living shorelines” on Long Wharf. A new seawall near Criscuolo Park.

Alders voted to advance those and other current and potential federally-funded projects in a plan to guard New Haven against flooding as climate change sends the city more frequent and powerful storms.

In all, 20 New Haven-specific actions are recommended in a new South Central Region Multi-Jurisdiction Hazard Mitigation Plan Update, a 703-page document that describes in detail how the Elm City and 13 other surrounding municipalities can best reduce the loss or damage of life, property, and natural resources in the event of a natural disaster.

On Thursday night in the Aldermanic Chambers on the second floor of City Hall, the City Services and Environmental Policy (CSEP) committee voted unanimously to recommend that the full Board of Alders (BOA) adopt the five-year plan update.

Click here to read the updated plan in its entirety.

The new plan, if adopted by the full board later this month, will replace the city’s current five-year natural hazard mitigation plan, which was last passed in April 2017.

Acting City Plan Director Michael Piscitelli and City Planner Stacey Davis described the purpose of the hefty new plan as twofold:

• To identify areas of the city that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of natural disasters, which, in New Haven’s case, mostly means coastal flooding and storm surges, as opposed to earthquakes or wildfires;

• And to develop strategies and actionable priorities that will minimize harm done to people, property, and the environment when such natural disasters occur.

The plan update identifies around two dozen prior and current natural hazard mitigation efforts undertaken by the city, as well as 20 updated mitigation action priorities for New Haven to work towards over the next five years.

Each recommended action comes with estimated costs, potential funding sources, identified project leads, implementation schedules, and priority rankings.

Some of the flooding mitigation efforts that the plan recommends the city pursue over the next five years include:

• Implement “living shorelines,” deployable flood dams at I-95 underpasses, and a new permanent flood wall to protect against flooding on Long Wharf.

The estimated cost for these Long Wharf flood protection projects is over $5 million. The plan identifies FEMA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) as potential funding sources, the BOA and the City Plan department as the project leads, the implementation timeline as July 2019 through June 2021, and the priority as “Very High.”

• Install bioswales and other green infrastructure at 200 locations throughout Downtown to help with drainage and prevent the existing storm sewer system from being overwhelmed by excess stormwater runoff.

The estimated cost for the Downtown green infrastructure drainage improvements is $2.5 million. The city already received funding for this project in 2017 through federal Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG – DR) assistance. The project lead is the Engineering Department, and the installation of bioswales at all 200 sites is expected to be finished by June 2019. The priority is listed as very high.

• Repair the existing riprap and seawall along the Quinnipiac River. The estimated cost is $300,000, the potential funding source is the city’s capital budget, the lead department is the Parks Department, and the implementation schedule is July 2018 through June 2019. The priority is listed as very high.

• Floodproof the existing carousel building at Lighthouse Point Park by moving the building to a higher elevation in the park. The estimated cost is $1 million to $2 million, potential funding sources are FEMA and CDBG – DR, the project lead is the Parks Department, the implementation schedule is July 2018 to June 2019, and the priority is listed as very high.

• Beach nourishment, a process by which sand is added to eroded beaches to prevent further coastal erosion and flooding, in front of private homes on Townsend Avenue south of the Pardee Seawall. The estimated cost is $1.8 million, the funding source is CDBG-DR, the project lead is the Engineering Department, the implementation schedule is October 2017 through May 2019, and the priority level is high.

• Install a new seawall along the shoreline of Criscuolo Park in Fair Haven to prevent future flooding of the park. The estimated cost is $750,000, the potential funding source is the city’s capital budget, the project lead is the Parks Department, the implementation schedule is July 2018 to June 2019, and the priority level is high.

“A lot of this seems to be flooding and storm-related,” said Newhallville/Prospect Hill Alder Steve Winter. “After that, what’s the second-most important risk?”

Davis said that with every major rain storm the city struggles with people driving through flooded areas.

“We need to make sure that people are aware of the risk of driving through flooded areas,” she said.

She said that the city also struggles with dead and decaying trees, which often come toppling down across roads, homes, cars, and power lines during heavy storms.

CSEP Committee Chair and Morris Cove Alder Sal DeCola told Piscitelli and Davis that this plan would do a great service for New Haven residents if it could help find state or federal funds to help the Parks Department cut down on its 40,000-long list of trees that need to be trimmed.

“Right now, the Parks Department cannot handle it, and they said it publicly,” he said. “Help the Parks Department find funds to get these trees down.”

Regionalism At Work

Davis and Piscitelli said that the hazard mitigation plan update represents not only a fresh look and a detailed set of recommendations around protecting the city’s most flood-prone areas.

They said it also represents regionalism at work – fourteen fully autonomous Southern Connecticut municipalities pooling together staff time and resources and expertise to better understand common concerns around natural disasters in the area.

“This plan was done regionally,” Piscitelli said, “in keeping with the state’s guidance to do more regionally.”

The plan was funded by a grant that the South Central Regional Council of Governments (SCRCOG) received from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in 2013.

It was prepared by Jamie Caplan Consulting, LLC in conjunction with engineers, city planners, and emergency management and development officials from New Haven, Bethany, Branford, East Haven, Guilford, Hamden, Madison, Milford, North Branford, North Haven, Orange, Wallingford, West Haven, and Woodbridge. 

“Participating in a multi-jurisdiction plan was a way for the fourteen jurisdictions to achieve economies of scale,” the final report reads.

The plan was finished on May 14, and received FEMA’s pre-approval in July. Davis said that the five-year plan must now be adopted by each of the 14 participating municipalities before it can be sent back to FEMA for final approval.

After FEMA gives its final sign-off, she said, New Haven and the 13 other collaborating municipalities become eligible to apply for and receive a range of federal financial assistance to help make these detailed hazard mitigation projects a reality.

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posted by: robn on November 2, 2018  8:54am

I’m not sure I care very much about commercial property in Long Wharf (this used to all be tidal basin which had absorptive capacity.

You can see from sea level rise map, the residential areas most affected in the city are water adjacent portions of:

East Shore
Fair Haven
Quinnipiak Meadows
The Hill
Wooster Sq
East Rock


posted by: wendy1 on November 2, 2018  9:18am

Learn to swim.

posted by: jim1 on November 2, 2018  9:50am

The fence won’t help. But moving all of New Haven up 35 feet would help.

Climate change is fake news.??!!!

Don’t buy a house on the coast as trump says the is no such thing
as climate change!!!!!!!!  Let his golf balls get wet.

                          “VOTE BLUE”

posted by: Patricia Kane on November 2, 2018  10:22am

The Quinnipiac River regularly floods the public access area at the base of Clifton St. where the skeleton of the Grand Bridge Restaurant sits. The recently re-planted garden is now covered in reeds, plus the seating area on the river side is also full of reeds. Last week the entire parking lot was flooded as well.
    The canoe ramp has been broken for a decade now and the wire fence and pavings are falling into the river.
    On a windy day, white caps appear on the water as it pushes against the Fair Haven Heights side of the river.
    This site is extremely important to the neighborhood which has lost its only recreational outlet due to erosion.
    Are there any plans to repair and improve the site? What is the timetable and the budget?

posted by: 1644 on November 2, 2018  10:50am

There are lots of positives here:
1. We can save money on harbor dredging.
2. I get direct waterfront.
3. I shall need to commute by boat, but my garage, which is at a lower level than my house, can be used as a boat house!

Aside from the general sea level rise, local flooding is no doubt worsened by the great rise in impervious surfaces we have seen in the last half century.

posted by: JCFremont on November 2, 2018  2:40pm

A few months back I visited the Connecticut Dinosaur State Park, interesting that the side was once a swamp, included into the display was a film on Continental Drift, had me thinking, are the continents still drifting? Apparently yes, so what resolution can our alders pass that will actually do to stop that? Can someone tell me the date when the earth reached its “perfect climate” and what did the earth look like? If you don’t believe the world was created in six days than hasn’t the earth’s climate always been changing?

posted by: HewNaven on November 2, 2018  3:53pm


Climate change is the wrong phrase. We should be using the term ANTHROPOCENE to talk about problems like this (e.g. climate). ANTHROPOCENE alludes to the wealth of evidence that we are currently living through an age when humans have a disproportionate impact on the planet, with the capability to scale that impact. You should check out this page, and in particular these charts noting the GREAT ACCELERATION: http://www.anthropocene.info/great-acceleration.php
It’s hard to deny the evidence of human impact unless you’ve got your head buried.

posted by: Esbey on November 2, 2018  3:57pm

Unpopular but correct opinion: we should have adopted the impermeable surface tax that was proposed a few years back. Not only would it have satisfied the TAX YALE (tm) folks, it would cut down on local flooding as sea levels rise and storms get worse.

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on November 2, 2018  6:05pm

JCFremont, the issue is not the fact that climate changes; as you note, it always has. Instead, it is the speed of the change. If average global temperature increased by 2 degrees C over 200 years, I wouldn’t worry - humans would cope. If that change instead occurs over a couple of decades, as is likely, it’s entirely a different matter.

Robn, you’re right about the residential effects of sea level rise. But there is a 115 kilovolt high power line and sewer main immediately adjacent to I - 95.The risk of erosion from sea level rise and coastal storms threatens their long-term survival.

posted by: dad101 on November 3, 2018  1:29pm

Ok her is something more than a rant…I am beyond aggravated and disgusted at the thought of figureing out how to save shore liine homes..not just new haven but the entire state..reality check EAST HAVEN ,WEST HAVEN ,BRIDGEPORT, GREENWICH, WOODMONT, OLD SAYBROOK, MADISON, Stratford etc all of these town and cities make it difficult as heck for non town residents to enjoy what we all have been paying for since the beginning. Every time you beg for money to restore your seawalls, docks beaches etc..we the TAX PAYERS of CT not your town pay for that yet we have to park a mile further awa,y we have to pay absurd fees to enter enough already ...

posted by: 1644 on November 3, 2018  5:25pm

dad101:  Reality check. Greenwich, in particular, accepted not state or federal funds for its parks,  most of all because it wanted to forestall arguments like yours that it should open its parks to non-residents.  Nonetheless,  the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that towns could not limit use of their parks to town residents, but must open them to all.  In Branford, some state LoCIP funds were recently reprogrammed from a restroom to seawall and dreading, but the otherwise, seawall repairs are nearly town funded.  In Branford, the main public beach, Parker Park, was devised to the town’s inhabitants for their use, and I don’t think any state funds have every been used for its seawalls, etc.  The town did get 75% FEMA reimbursement for rebuilding Linden Ave after it was washed out, but all towns got reimbursed at the same rate for infrastructure repairs.  The Madison Surf Club was purchased with town funds, and doesn’t have a seawall to speak of, anyway.  Those Madison residents with homes on Holly Park and Long Shore Lane maintain and repair their own seawalls.  Overall, residents of 11 towns, including Greenwich and Madison, pay the bulk of state taxes, and get nearly zero state aid.

posted by: robn on November 3, 2018  5:41pm


Ok fine. Please pay the penalties of your carbon use to date to fix past and current problems you’ve helped cause, then go zero emissions,  then pay the penalties of lagging climate behavior until it rebalances and then after that you won’t have to worry any more about paying for the problems you created.

posted by: JCFremont on November 4, 2018  2:46pm

@HewHevan, Interesting charts rather amazing the big uptick following the worlds last big World Wide mass killing event isn’t it? Which also coincided with many of the “great” inventions and “freedoms” that came out of that conflict. Bit of advice, have the group downsize its “Global Goals” they look more political platforms than a real serious scientific study.

posted by: RHeerema on November 6, 2018  1:46pm

Amazed once again that all this work is happening right around Tweed Airport, and yet a zero-cost measure is not included: STOP PAVING the wetlands at Tweed, i.e. don’t pave the runway safety zone.  Why is this not included in the recommendations?

posted by: steve on November 7, 2018  7:41pm

@ RHeerema, Your claim that Tweed is the source of the problem is nonsense. Your quote in May,“a six-foot drop from the northern to the southern ends of the paved runway already creates a “water chute” that channels soot, and carcinogens like deicing agents and leaded gas, into Morris Creek Nature Preserve, then into New Haven Harbor by the main beach area of Lighthouse Point Park.” Totally not true, the only point you got right is the 6 foot variation in the runway. 1.The 6 feet is spread over 5600 feet and it works out to 7 inches per 560 feet or the length of almost 2 football fields,no water chute.2.The runway is grooved from side to side so rain water is channeled to both sides of the runway, over 2 miles long,no water chute. 3.No deicing is done on the runway, no gas leaks on the runway,the runway is cleaner than most city streets. All runways have a height variation, Providence 21 feet,White Plains 59 feet,Islip 20 feet,etc.Again,no water chute.Please do some research before posting your day dreams, Tweed is not the problem that you try vilify, Tweed is an underutilized asset that needs to reach its full potential as a regional airport and reduce dependence on out of state airports and yes,Bradley being almost in Massachusetts is not positioned to serve the entire state. American airlines is having very good success at Tweed and with the runway upgrade, several other airlines will start service to other hub airports such as Detroit,Atlanta,etc. The gravel overrun is not a sponge as you so wrongly claimed, but it is engineered to support an aircraft that goes beyond the paved portion of the runway,sponges can’t do that. Please find another real cause that can you your help and get involved in helping other people who can use your help and forget about Tweed, you had your 15 minutes of fame in photo ops.
Please, no more misinformation, we all get a lot of that from the daily news.