Coastal Resilience Planning in Connecticut

On October 29, 2012, Branford, Madison, and Milford, Connecticut, were hit by Superstorm Sandy. In Milford alone, more than 2,000 homes were affected. In addition, all three municipalities are witnessing increases in flooding during high-tide events. We are working with these communities to deliver coastal resilience plans that are customized to their local needs and will be implementable within a larger regional framework.

Superstorm Sandy damage to East Coast homes.
Superstorm Sandy damage to East Coast homes.

Taking Action

As we assist these three communities, through our subcontractor role to Milone & MacBroom, Inc. (MMI), we are listening to their concerns. Ultimately, we will use this feedback to identify specific neighborhood- and infrastructure-level concept designs to enhance a larger 10-town regional resilience framework. Recently, we presented our risk assessment results at a series of public information meetings. Our analysis focused on primary impacts to the built environment (e.g. utilities, roads, bridges), as well as secondary impacts (e.g. sheltering, evacuation, and economic disruption). Homeowners, businesses, local officials, and other stakeholders attended these meetings and shared their insights about what’s important to them.

We’re now beginning a series of charrettes with these communities to assist in determining locations for implementable resilience strategies and interventions. Examples of potential interventions range from voluntary acquisition of homes in high-risk areas to green infrastructure improvements. By coordinating with the regional framework and focusing on actionable projects, we’ll be able to deliver realistic solutions to reduce future losses and increase their ability to recover from coastal events.

Building Upon a Solid Foundation

Most coastal communities in New England already have Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) approved hazard mitigation plans in place, which is a helpful base to build upon. While hazard mitigation typically focuses on reducing physical losses, resilience also minimizes recovery time after a disaster and lessens economic impacts. Resilience plans give localities the opportunity to focus on their priorities and to advance projects that address them. By creating neighborhood-level resilience plans with further developed projects, municipalities are improving the information available for hazard mitigation plan updates. Simultaneously, they’re also supporting the long-term goals of the regional resilience plan.

Leading a Growing Trend

While a relatively new trend in Connecticut and the rest of New England, we continue to see an increase in local coastal resilience projects. Cities like Miami Beach, Florida, and New York City have led the way, beginning their planning in 2013 and 2012 respectively. We assisted New York City in this process, implementing several projects as part of the Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency. Our experience with this new type of planning will be useful as we continue to help communities in Connecticut.

Communication is Key

As a result of increased storms and other coastal events, we have seen a growing interest in, and demand for, resilience action. Participation in the planning process in Branford, Madison, and Milford has been high, with local television and print news coverage drawing in large public attendance. We look forward to a continued dialogue with these municipalities throughout the project and hope the trend toward coastal resilience continues as more communities look toward the future.