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Old Lyme - When Superstorm Sandy hit the shoreline close to two years ago, the brook nestled between the Old Colony Beach Club and Old Lyme Shores associations overflowed onto neighboring properties.
"It really flooded a lot of homes," said Old Colony Beach Club Association Chairman Douglas Whalen.
Indeed, Sheffield Brook, the creek that runs from near Long Island Sound up past Route 156, has overflowed during major storms for the past two decades.
Over the years, an overgrowth of vegetation and trees has covered the narrowing brook that runs in areas behind the backyards of homes on Sea Spray Road and Gorton Avenue. The dense areas along the brook prevent it from flowing properly.
But now a federal grant of $820,700 will restore and dredge Sheffield Brook to reduce the chance of flooding. The grant is from the Emergency Watershed Protection Floodplain Easement Program through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service. Madison, East Haven, West Haven and Bridgeport also received grants, according to the USDA. The grant will be to Old Colony Beach, but the two associations are working together on the project.
The project will essentially clean up and reroute the brook so it flows properly, Whalen said.
The initiative will also clear a flood storage area, covered with trees and plants, on Gorton Avenue, so it can properly contain water. The area will be replanted with plant species, specified for floodplains, that can help absorb water.
The USDA will place an easement over the 1.6 acres near where the creek flows to ensure it will never be developed, according to a state press release.
The two beach associations will also replace and upgrade drainage pipes along the brook and the culvert onto Long Island Sound. During previous major storms, the culvert would back up with sand and spill water onto Route 156, said Old Lyme Shores Beach Association President Paul Rowean. The associations will work with engineering firm Fuss & O'Neill to implement new technology, such as a pipe with a valve, that will stop water from backing up from the sound.
"Water can spill from the banks very easily," Rowean said.
The project, which will take about a year, could begin as early as September, he said.
The associations are optimistic the project will solve longstanding flooding issues in the area and benefit the town.
"In the future, when we have these superstorms, the stream will work properly," said Whalen.