Sea level rise brings challenges
FAIRFIELD — It is estimated that Long Island Sound’s sea level will rise 20 inches by 2050, a fact that had some at Wednesday night’s meeting on sea level rise questioning how the town was responding.
More than 65 people attended the meeting, held appropriately enough at Penfield Pavilion and hosted by the Flood and Erosion Control Board.
Juliana Barrett, a University of Connecticut professor, explained how climate change affects the shoreline, with warming oceans expanding and storm events becoming more extreme. There are ways, she said, to alleviate those effects, from creating “living shorelines” to installing sea walls where appropriate.
Public Works Director Joseph Michelangelo said there are measures the town is taking to protect critical infrastructure, such as the sewage treatment plant. There, a dike is being constructed around the building, and a microgrid and fuel cell installed to allow it to continue to operate in case of an outage.
The town is also establishing engineered beaches at the public beaches, to help prevent erosion, and one resident worried that the town has not considered what the effect will be on private beaches.
Town Engineer Laura Pulie said that was not true and that the design takes into consideration the effect on the adjacent property. “The study does look at that,” she said.
Planning Director James Wendt said that because of measures the town has taken, residents receive a 10 percent discount on flood insurance premiums.
“We participate in the Community Rating System,” Wendt said, adding it provides residents with about $400,000 in savings on policy costs.
But Wendt told the audience that even with all the town is doing to protect the infrastructure,”We can never prevent coastal flooding. We can lessen the impact.”
Another audience member asked what grant money was available to purchase shoreline property and return it to its natural state.
“Not enough,” Wendt said, adding that in the long run, returning the coastal property to nature is probably the best way to approach the problem. “That is a tough thing to say, and to accept, as a private property owner,” Wendt acknowledged.