FAIRFIELD — With the Army Corps of Engineers unable to fund the Pine Creek dike elevation project, the town has gotten the OK to use the $300,000 set aside for that project somewhere else.

The Board of Finance and Board of Selectmen this week both approved the transfer of that Department of Housing block grant funding to the Riverside Drive mitigation project.

Conservation Director Brian Carey said the Pine Creek dike project was estimated to cost about $7 million, a price tag that requires the Army Corps to go to Congress for authorization.

“The time frame wasn’t feasible,” Carey said.

Carey said the town has just completed the coastal resiliency plan for Riverside Drive which includes a recommendation to replace the existing tide gate system.

“This money would pay for investigation and design for the bulkhead tide gates,” he said. “The plan itself was paid for with a block grant.”

“So we’ll get the design for free,” Board of Finance member Chris DeWitt said. According to Carey, about $1.1 million has been earmarked as the total cost of the Riverside Drive project. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to decrease that by ($300,000) design money,” Carey said.

Finance board member Elizabeth Zezima asked if there was any grant money available to help defray the actual construction costs.

“Probably not,” Carey said, adding that any Federal Emergency Management Agency funding would likely require the project be built at a higher elevation, driving the costs up. “We’re always looking for grants that are available,” he said. “A lot of these block grants aren’t around anymore. We’re very lucky to be able to move this grant money.”

Carey said the new bulkhead and tide gates will act like the existing system, but there will likely be some design changes in order to separate it from the bridge on Riverside Drive. “It’s kind of a Rube Goldberg design,” Carey said, of the existing system. “It’s going to improve the design.”

A Rube Goldberg machine is a deliberately complex contraption in which a series of devices that perform simple tasks are linked together to produce a domino effect in which activating one device triggers the next device in the sequence. The expression is named after American cartoonist and inventor of such contraptions, Rube Goldberg.

DeWitt wanted to know when the “no kidding, we have to do this” date is for the project.

“As soon as possible,” Carey said. Backup documents indicate the current system is failing.

Carey said he believes at some point, the town will revisit the Pine Creek dike project, adding that there is an upcoming project that talks about the tide gates in that area, as well.

greilly@ctpost.com; @GreillyPost