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    Sunday, April 14, 2024

    Community tackles effects of climate change on downtown Mystic

    Mystic ― Chad Frost has noticed more flooding during rainstorms and significantly more tidal flooding over the past 20 years that he has worked in Mystic.

    Frost, a landscape architect with Kent + Frost Landscape Architecture and Design, travels along River Road to get back and forth between his office in downtown Mystic and his home on the north side of Mystic. He said he used to see water on the road during one or two tides a year, but he now sees water on the road every high tide in the winter.

    He has seen, during heavy rainstorms, water coming down the hill into downtown Mystic and pooling around Bank Square Books and down Pearl Street.

    Frost, who serves on the steering committee for a Downtown Mystic Resiliency and Sustainability Plan that the Town of Groton is developing, said he recommends all his clients use stormwater infiltration techniques for their properties. He said he hopes the town initiative will provide a larger “road map” for how residents and businesses should build in the future to protect their properties.

    Frost said the first step is to educate people and give them options on how to solve the problems. Then hopefully individuals will start implementing solutions, and the town will set standards that encourage people to make changes as they update their properties.

    He said it’s important to adjust to the future and the rising water and increasing temperatures.

    More than 50 residents on Tuesday attended an open house for the plan, expected to be completed by November, at the Union Baptist Church

    Megan Granato, sustainability and resilience manager for the town, said the project is focusing on helping Mystic become more resilient in the face of the climate change impacts it currently is experiencing and will continue to experience in the future. It’s also focusing on making decisions that will create a more positive future for upcoming generations. The plan primarily is focusing on flooding and heat.

    Future projections

    Granato explained that research points to Pearl Street historically running along the side of an inlet. Over time, the area was developed and the inlet was filled, so the current street goes right through what used to be open water. She said that information adds to the understanding of drainage patterns in the area and noted that many Pearl Street residents reported water coming up through their basements during big storms.

    Samuel Bell, senior resiliency planner for GZA GeoEnvironmental, Inc., the consultant for the project, shared some of the preliminary heat and flood vulnerability assessment results. He showed Federal Emergency Management Agency flood hazard maps, as well as modeling projections from the Connecticut Institute for Resilience & Climate Adaptation.

    He showed CIRCA’s maps for a 10-year storm ― a storm that has a one in ten chance of occurring in any given year ― where the town experiences a lot of flooding in the parking lot south of West Main Street and along Gravel Street north and then further down into Water Street.

    A 2050 map projects more flooding on Pearl Street and expanding into other areas south and on Water Street and down into Tuft’s Cove. The projections are based on communities planning for 20 inches of sea level rise by 2050.

    According to Bell’s presentation, the number of days with temperatures above 90 degrees are projected to increase by about 17 days by 2050, and the number of days lower than 32 degrees are projected to decrease by about 14 days by 2050. Annual precipitation is projected to increase by about 4 inches by 2050.

    The next steps are to complete a vulnerability assessment for the area and develop recommended adaptation strategies, according to the presentation.

    Mystic residents, workers and visitors put stickers on posters to mark which flooding and heat adaptation strategies they felt the town should implement. Strengthening building and zoning requirements to have stricter flood compliance criteria, increasing vegetation and tree cover, and focusing on energy efficiency are among participants’ top priorities.

    People also filled out surveys, looked at posters with flood and heat projections and spoke with project leaders and town officials during the open house.

    Residents notice storm surge, flooding

    Resident Will Goetz said he worked on studies on global warming in the 1990s, so he’s familiar with the phenomenon of global warming. He recently downloaded a study on sustainable transportation and plans to convert his river boat cruise company to biofuel.

    Goetz, who lives in a relatively low spot in downtown Mystic, said he saw a pretty significant storm surge in December when there was a high tide from a full moon and wind. He said water came up through the storm sewer and worked its way through the neighborhood and almost came to the edge of his property.

    Kathleen O’Beirne, who lives on the corner of Allyn Street and Route 1, said she sees flooding of up to two-and-a-half feet in her basement when it rains heavily and when rain falls on the frozen ground. She said water comes up through the concrete floor ― making the floor look as if it were a sponge.

    She said over the last several decades, depending on the wind and direction of the storm, one side of Route 1 will get flooded and the other side won’t. She has installed a more effective sump pump, which she said is the best defense against the flooding.

    O’Beirne said the fire department has had to pump out her basement.

    “The minute rain gets really heavy, all the fire departments are busy,” she said.

    k.drelich@theday.com

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