New London hires firm to undertake watershed management plan

New London — The city has enlisted a Massachusetts consulting firm to develop a watershed management plan — a step toward mapping out the city’s environmental resources and identifying sources of water pollution.

Arcadis U.S. Inc. will be paid $56,500 for work that is expected to include updating antiquated maps of critical watershed resource areas — aquifers, wetlands, vernal pools, headwaters and outfalls — along with identification of potential pollution hotspots and an examination of stormwater drainage and management.

The company also will undertake a natural resource inventory, propose ecosystem restoration projects and provide a roadmap for the city to identify resources to assist the city in obtaining funding to meet its future goals.

Arcadis is expected to work with the city’s planning department, Sustainable Committee, Stormwater Authority and representatives from land-use commissions and environmental agencies.

The work is being funded from a $35,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and more than $21,000 from the city’s Stormwater Authority.

The Stormwater Authority, comprising members of the Water and Water Pollution Control Authority, started collecting fees from residents and businesses last year. Revenues from the stormwater fees were projected to be $1.3 million and used in part for infrastructure improvements to the city’s stormwater system, which includes 63 miles of roads with drainage pipes, 1,100 catch basins and 60 discharge points.

Joe Lanzafame, director of public utilities, said the contract with Arcadis will help the city meet some of the requirements of the federal Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System, or MS4, permit issued by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and to abide by provisions of the federal Clean Water Act.

The permit allows cities such as New London to discharge stormwater into the Thames River and Long Island Sound, but also requires the city to take steps to mitigate pollution, monitor and maintain its stormwater system.

Lanzafame said the work by Arcadis will help meets goals such as a public education requirement of the permit while providing the city with updated maps, and help prioritize projects with an overall goal of reducing pollution and improving the water quality in city recreational areas. The city’s water supply comes from reservoirs in Waterford, Montville and Salem and is not directly impacted by stormwater runoff.

Gwen Macdonald, the director of ecological restoration for Save the Sound, called commission of the study a proactive move by the city to identify potential projects and find creative ways to manage stormwater.

“What’s happening across the state of Connecticut right now is MS4 requirements are going to require the towns to think in a new way about how they’re managing stormwater and absorbing the stormwater before it runs off. There’s definitely a learning curve for municipalities,” Macdonald said.

She is particularly interested in the Fenger Brook watershed, since Save the Sound is managing a project to restore alewife fish to Alewife Cove, and Fenger Brook feeds into that cove.

“Maybe one of the most valuable pieces to come out of this is the opportunity for stakeholders like Save the Sound to communicate and identify overlaps in priorities,” Macdonald said. “The ultimate goal is to identify water quality impairments and a path to improve those impaired waters."

Bob Stuller, chairman of the Inland, Wetlands and Conservation Commission and a member of the Sustainability Committee, said the advent of the plan is exciting news and his expectations are perhaps a bit grandiose.

One of his hopes from the study is for the city to find a way of “daylighting more of the streams,” around the city.

Stuller said it can be jarring to go to areas of the city and find water flowing out of pipes instead of across land.

“I would like to see some of our streams out of pipes and into daylight. It seems to me they can help us with this,” Stuller said.

g.smith@theday.com

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