Fairfield, Bridgeport join forces against flooding
Sharon Offeney said the flooding Lewis Drive in Fairfield endured on Sept. 25 was the worst she has seen in her 65 years living there.
“We weren’t running for our lives, but we were walking quickly,” Offeney said of that evening, as she stood among neighbors before a news conference Thursday about preventing further flooding.
Between 5 and 7 inches of rain fell across Bridgeport and Fairfield on Sept. 25. Homes along the Rooster River in Fairfield and Bridgeport had their basements and cars flooded, and some residents were forced into hotels for weeks.
To make sure that doesn’t happen again, Fairfield and Bridgeport are joining forces to clean up the river, which flows from Trumbull through Fairfield and Bridgeport.
Various local and state politicians met Thursday next to the river, at Mountain Grove Cemetery, to discuss what would be done. Public works trucks from Fairfield piled into the cemetery, and crews started working to clear debris from the river following the meeting.
“There is no one quick fix,” Fairfield First Selectman Mike Tetreau said, addressing the media and about a dozen Fairfield and Bridgeport residents.
“It’s a very complex problem,” and the flooding in September had been exceptionally bad, he said.
One strategy being considered includes hiring engineers to examine the river and the culverts it flows through, to see where improvements can be made.
At a meeting in late November, Fairfield Director of Public Works Joseph Michelangelo and Bill Hurley, the town’s engineering manager, said the town hired the engineering firm Milone & MacBroom to assess how river flooding might be prevented.
Michelangelo also said at the November meeting that the United States Geological Survey and Federal Emergency Management Agency would conduct a hydraulic analysis of the Rooster River. Details on what that would entail were not immediately available.
Another option is water storage. Michelangelo said in November, and Tetreau reaffirmed Thursday, that Fairfield is looking into below-ground water storage options that would allow a steady release of water during storms. One area being considered for that is the Fairchild Wheeler Golf Course.
“We’re looking at where we could hold water in selected areas so it all doesn’t come rushing off on a Tuesday afternoon,” Michelangelo said at Board of Selectmen meeting Dec. 19. “There’s limited areas where we could have potential storage. ... Retention is the preferable approach, not that maintenance isn’t important. Our storm drainage system isn’t collective, it’s composed of smaller storm drainage systems. One thing we want to be careful is not to get the water out as fast as possible.”
However, Tetreau said Thursday, the improvements have to happen across the board. Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim agreed.
“We continue to look for answers,” Ganim said. “We’re doing what we can.”
State Rep. Cristin McCarthy Vahey, D-Fairfield, said Rooster River flooding has been a problem for decades, and that work on the river would continue, “for generations to come.”
“We’re going to have to work on all fronts,” she said.
For now, officials asked residents to be patient.
“We’re going to stay on top of this,” Tetreau said. “We’re going to keep communicating.”
Includes reporting from Humberto J. Rocha