More 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.