Getting projects to shovel-ready status could leverage federal dollars for Connecticut communities
New Haven, Connecticut – Today Save the Sound released a guide to 18 priority projects along the central Connecticut coast that would use nature-based solutions to restore habitats and protect shoreline communities from the effects of climate change.
“Coastal Connecticut is already faced with more frequent and severe flooding, and as our climate warms manmade solutions like concrete bulkheads won’t be able to keep up—and they destroy the shoreline,” explained Gwen Macdonald, director of ecological restoration at Save the Sound. “Nature has evolved its own resilient systems—such as marshes, dunes, beaches, and oyster reefs—that are highly effective at protecting us from worsening storm surges and heavy rainfalls. Nature-based solutions withstand storm impacts better than concrete, are often very cost effective, and are often self-regenerative. Plus, they come with myriad additional benefits like filtering pollutants from stormwater, enhancing beloved beaches, and providing wildlife habitat.”
Projects listed are, from east to west: one in Madison, three in Guilford, two in Branford, six in East Haven, New Haven, and West Haven, two in Stratford, four in Bridgeport, and two in Fairfield. They vary in scope, type of project, and status. Examples include:
- Chittenden Beach, Guilford – This area has been devastated by severe storms. Vegetation and dune construction would protect it from further erosion and flooding in the extremely low lying area directly inland. Save the Sound and Guilford are currently seeking support for studies to assess project impact and benefit-cost ratio.
- Long Wharf Coast, New Haven – This hub of practical and cultural functions (sewer infrastructure, a somber memorial, and the best food trucks in the state) lies in a FEMA flood hazard zone. It is a great candidate for a living shoreline project to re-create a marsh fringe that will bring back wildlife and prevent erosion of this special place.
- West Branch Johnson Creek Living Shoreline, Bridgeport – This creek forms an inlet that represents a high flood hazard for a low-lying area previously affected by Sandy. Transforming it into a living shoreline would offer public amenities and walking paths for residents while protecting the area from flooding.
These priority opportunities are selected from among 320 community resiliency projects from Madison to Fairfield in the Southern Connecticut Regional Framework for Coastal Resilience, a collaboration by the South Central Regional Council of Governments, Connecticut Metropolitan Council of Governments, and The Nature Conservancy. That framework in turn drew on previous Save the Sound research on potential green infrastructure projects in New Haven and Bridgeport.
The Connecticut state legislature is currently considering a bonding package that includes $40 million in grants and loans over two years to assist municipalities with a combination of nature-based coastal and inland resiliency projects and electricity microgrids. Save the Sound’s Long Island Soundkeeper, Bill Lucey, will testify in support of the funding at a public hearing on Wednesday.
“We’re asking municipal leaders and state legislators to partner with us on making these projects a reality,” said Save the Sound President Curt Johnson. “They require funding to fully evaluate their feasibility, to design and engineer them, and permit and build them. Together we can identify resources to get these projects shovel-ready so your districts can attract federal disaster relief and stimulus dollars. With forward-thinking leadership, these projects will create local jobs, bring back wildlife habitat, and protect homes and businesses.”