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Need for coastal resilience plans grows urgent

Stack four soda cans on top of one another, then visualize water that deep. That's about how much sea level in Long Island Sound is projected to rise in less than 30 years. It's enough to put underwater many coastal areas that currently are dry and above the water mark.

In addition to this general projection of sea level rise, more frequent storms that more often flood lower lying neighborhoods and streets also are now a reality. Remembering the so-called Big One, that is, recalling the impacts of a particularly fierce storm, is no longer a once-in-a-lifetime memory. Right now, for example, we have only to think back one week to recall when winter storm Izzy flooded some Connecticut downtown areas. In the past year, several other such storms locally caused similar results.

With the realities of a warming climate upon us here in coastal Connecticut, it's become an imperative for local officials to plan for and better prepare their communities to withstand the impacts of stronger and more frequent coastal storms and flooding. It's good news that Groton recently became the most recent community to begin the work to do just that.

The town has received a $90,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation's Long Island Sound Futures Fund to develop a plan to make downtown Mystic more resilient to sea-level rise and climate change. According to Groton's grant proposal, the study will include "evaluating infrastructure, potential impacts to historic structures, potential impacts to economic activity, and potential impacts to our natural resources."

The work scheduled to begin this winter will also include conducting a series of public workshops and, most important, finding solutions to better prepare businesses and other properties for the impacts of climate change.

The Mystic study is vital to the future of the historic village that is an economic powerhouse for the region and state. Mystic attractions serve as the state's top tourist draw, numerous residential neighborhoods hug its shore for a coveted spot within view of the water, and its busy downtown houses numerous shops and restaurants.

But Mystic is not unique in its coastal vulnerability and other communities have already undertaken resiliency plans or are considering them. The city of New London, for example, worked with the Connecticut Institute for Resilience and Climate Adaptation at the University of Connecticut on a study that determined 68 downtown buildings are vulnerable to flooding. The Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments and its member municipalities also have conducted studies and planning for resilience and hazard mitigation due to climate change.

We think this planning and preparation for sea level rise that will be a certainty in the not-so-distant future and for the more frequent flooding that the region already is experiencing is essential for every community. It's no longer a luxury nor something that can be postponed.

We commend Groton officials for embarking on this study and the Long Island Sound Futures Fund for helping fund it. We urge officials in all communities to work on and compile similar plans.

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Managing Editor Izaskun E. Larrañeta, staff writer Erica Moser and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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