In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, one of the Northeast’s most devastating storms in recent memory, New Haven is planning new infrastructure to combat the forces of nature.
State representative Dennis Schain said storms like Hurricane Irene and Hurricane Sandy are evidence of how climate change may affect construction on the coastline. The Elm City is currently considering major structural investments after storms rocked New Haven in two successive years. Residents are pushing for sea wall funding that will help protect homes in Morris Cove against storms surges. The city applied for funding for a 500-foot sea wall to protect 10 houses in the area after Hurricane Irene, but the state denied the request. New Haven residents and city representatives are now pushing the state and federal government to reconsider supporting this project.
“There are going to be more of these storms,” Schain, the communications director for Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said. “We need to consider what the impacts will be whenever there’s planning for construction or development of any kind along the shoreline.”
Schain said that sea walls can protect properties from storm surges and waves. He also said that since a sea wall was approved in the same location in the 1980’s, he does not see “insurmountable issues” in building a new one now.
Schain cautioned, however, that sea walls are not appropriate in every situation because tidal conditions can cause sand erosion and weaken the wall. Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has not yet reviewed the proposal for the New Haven sea wall because the funding has not been secured, Schian said. He added that if climate change leads to more prevalent storms, the state will have to take “greater care” to think about the impact of storms as it relates to shoreline development.
In their first funding application, city representatives requested federal Hazard Mitigation Funds, which are grants that help implement long-term disaster prevention, for the sea wall’s construction, said City Hall spokeswoman Elizabeth Benton ‘04 in an email to the News. Although the initial application was denied, the conversation is “ongoing,” she added.
Scott Devico, a spokesman for the Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, said the state is working to find additional funding for the wall.
“We continue to work with FEMA to determine possible eligibility and are working with the City to identify other federal funding sources for the project,” he said in an email to the News.
The need for structural changes was evident in New Haven in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Last week, City Hall estimated that city and Board of Education property sustained approximately $1.58 million worth of damage in the hurricane. This includes damage to six public schools, Long Wharf Park, street lights and traffic signals.
City officials remain hopeful that the federal government will be able help with disaster relief and prevention.
“I am optimistic that the vast majority of storm-related expenses and damages will be eligible for FEMA reimbursement,” said Mayor John DeStefano Jr. “These expenses were necessary and appropriate to keep New Haven families safe throughout the storm, and to make sure New Haven schools and workplaces could reopen.”
According to City Hall, 1,708 hours of Department of Public Works overtime, 1,330 hours of fire department overtime and 3,179 hours of police department preparing for the storm were recorded during Hurricane Sandy.