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    Tuesday, December 06, 2022

    OPINION: I doubt a tutu can protect Masons Island from a future of floods

    I doubt a tutu can protect Masons Island from a future of floods.

    I should say right up front that the people of Masons Island who are working hard to address the impending perils of climate change deserve a great deal of credit.

    Honestly, though, I think the wider community of officialdom in Stonington and Groton generally has its head in the sand, as the likely devastating impact of rising sea levels begins to be more obvious in this watery part of the world.

    Stonington, to its credit, did commission some analysis a few years back, and it was especially alarming for the way it documented how bad it’s going to become, as sea levels continue their inexorable rise.

    Then heads went back in the sand.

    We are already seeing sunny day flooding of major roads in Mystic, when the moon is full.

    Especially vulnerable places like downtown Mystic, Masons Island and Stonington Borough are going to be devastated with storm flooding in the not-so-distant future.

    Stonington did apply for and receive $42,000 in federal grant money, matched by $26,000 from Masons Island, to support an experimental project that has begun in an especially vulnerable part of the island.

    This is an inversion of what should happen. The town should be developing big plans and solutions of its own, not just acquiescing and supporting a minor grant application from one especially worried community.

    And as much as I admire the work and inspiration of the volunteers of the Masons Island Fire District Shoreline Protection Task Force, I don’t have a lot of faith in the grant-supported research project they’ve begun.

    The grant goes to a private company, known as The Emerald Tutu, with research ties to Northeastern University, that has been funded with about $1 million in grants from the National Science Foundation.

    The company, which has gotten a lot of good press in the Boston area, is in the research phase of a proposal to ring parts of the vulnerable Boston waterfront with floating mats of plant growth, sort of a giant, floating marsh.

    Its name is a play on the noted ring of green space around Boston known as the Emerald Necklace. This would be Boston’s Emerald Tutu.

    I’m no scientist, but I am skeptical about how much the fully-grown tutu, even while lowering the impact of tidal and wave action, is going to protect low-lying areas from sea rise.

    Unlike the Groton Republican town chairman, who recently suggested a school librarian be fired or at least disciplined for suggesting kids read a book about drag queens, I have nothing against guys in drag.

    Still, the fact that the Emerald Tutu project uses a tutu-wearing drag queen in the main explanatory video on its web site, cracking off-color jokes about gay sex, leaves me, a gay man, wondering how they got the federal government to invest a million dollars in this research.

    I think many might agree with me, if you look at pictures of the first floating research tutu installed off Masons Island, that not much help in the time of rising sea levels is on the way.

    I did have a nice chat with a researcher for the project who explained that ultimately 100 of the mats might be installed along that section of the Masons Island shoreline, considerably breaking the impact of storm surge and waves.

    It might help. It certainly won’t hurt. But it does not seem like an answer for a community that wonders what’s going to happen when its main road to the mainland inevitably goes underwater.

    Decision makers in the rest of the town and in Hartford need to take the islanders’ worries seriously and do something big very soon in the way of planning for what’s to come.

    The people of Masons Island may be especially focused on their problem, but they share it with much of the rest of low-lying areas of Connecticut’s extensive shoreline.

    I’m not convinced the guy in the green tutu has the answers.

    This is the opinion of David Collins

    d.collins@theday.com

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