New Haven’s flood problems might be solved with green infrastructure, according to a project currently under review in City Hall.
The City Services and Environmental Policy Committee of the New Haven Board of Alders announced yesterday a resolution that would allow Mayor Toni Harp to apply for funding from the Connecticut Office of Housing and Community Development. If awarded the $31.5 million grant, the city will use the money to develop anti-flooding measures on some of New Haven’s main streets and to implement green infrastructure, according to Executive Director of New Haven’s Livable City Initiative Erik Johnson, one of the three people leading the project.
“There has been flooding for many years, for a long, long time, so we’re going to give authorization to the mayor to make a request for the funds,” said Ward 18 Alder Salvatore DeCola, who also serves as the chair of the Environmental Policy Committee.
The funds would be taken from the nearly $138 million granted to Connecticut in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in the form of Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funds. The city would not have to contribute additional money to the project, Johnson said.
Johnson, along with City Engineer Giovanni Zinn, assured the committee’s alders that by investing in green infrastructure, the City will be spared from higher costs in the future. One of the proposed projects that Zinn brought up during the meeting is installing enhanced tree pits, designed to filter and store excess water from storms. The enhanced tree pits would be based upon similar designs attempted in other cities, such as New York.
“That’s really the key part of the plan, we’re trying to mitigate as much [potential storm damage] as possible with the infrastructure,” Zinn said to the committee’s alders.
The committee explained that their project will focus on the provision of standardized, low-cost items that would be easily reproduced and maintained. They said that because the items would not require custom engineering, the actual cost of implementing the infrastructure may be minimized.
Zinn added that the team feels confident that the project will see positive results because the city’s engineering team is familiar with the terrain in the area.
However, the alders in the committee were sure to carefully question the city employees who brought the proposal during Tuesday night’s meeting, as some other projects implemented in recent years have strained the city’s budget. One such project is the State Street Bridge, started in 2009 with a budget of $5.1 million, and whose defective planning has made its cost balloon to over $30 million, said Ward 25 Alder Adam Marchand.
The committee voted to have the resolution read publicly next Monday at the Board of Alders’ meeting. DeCola said the resolution will likely be voted upon on Nov. 6. Johnson stated that, realistically, the team expects to get around $7 million to $10 million from the fund, instead of the full $31.5 million they are requesting.
Johnson and DeCola said their greatest challenge will now be to convince the State that their proposal is a comprehensive solution to the flooding disasters that have struck New Haven in the past.
Along with the State Street Bridge and the CDBG-DR funds, some city representatives at the meeting discussed their proposal for a renewed Snow Emergency Plan, which will focus on proper shoveling of New Haven’s main streets.