Grant will help state's coastal communities prepare for sea level rise, storms

Groton — Detailed maps will be created showing flood-prone areas along the state’s coast, and projects will be undertaken to promote understanding and use of natural shoreline landscaping techniques in Connecticut, thanks to a $109,576 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

These efforts, designed to foster resilience in the face of rising sea levels and increasing intensity of coastal storms, will be led by the Connecticut Institute for Resilience and Climate Adaptation, or CIRCLA, based at the University of Connecticut’s Avery Point campus. The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s Office of Long Island Sound Programs will be a partner with CIRCLA on the projects.

“The maps will be much more accurate, and include the effects on small inlets and water depths, and we’ll deploy instruments to check the maps,” James O’Donnell, executive director of CIRCLA and professor of marine sciences at Avery Point, said Monday. The new maps, he said, will be more specific and detailed than existing flood inundation maps, and are intended to provide municipal planners, emergency managers and others with a valuable tool to use in their communities. The maps will be made available online and display the effects of a 100-year storm, or one that has a 1 percent chance of occurring in a given year.

The grant, announced Friday, is part of an $891,423 grant from NOAA to a consortium of New England states and coastal observation agencies. The grant program was highly competitive, according to a CIRCLA news release, with NOAA selecting only 12 grant recipients from among 130 proposals nationwide.

Along with creation of the maps, the grant to CIRCLA will also enable the creation of “real-time” tidal inundation prediction systems.

“It would be specific to an incoming storm,” O’Donnell said.

The grant will also fund reports and workshops to educate municipal officials and others about “green infrastructure” — projects that use nature-based approaches to soften the effects of coastal flooding — and help reduce state and federal regulatory barriers to carrying out such projects, said Rebecca French, director of community engagement for CIRCLA.

“We’re trying to expand the use of green infrastructure to build resilience, and reduce erosion and impacts of storms and flooding,” she said.

“Green infrastructure” can include projects such as dune construction; planting vegetation along sloped areas; protecting and expanding marsh areas that absorb wave energy; and establishing shellfish beds as offshore breakwaters, French said.

The work being supported by the two-year grant will begin in May. The mapping and modeling projects would be the focus of the first year, and the green infrastructure projects would happen in the second year. A website of the projects will also be created.

CIRCLA will collaborate on its projects with similar ones in Rhode Island, Maine and Massachusetts, O’Donnell said.

j.benson@theday.com

 

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