Hazard mitigation plan for region being updated

Groton — To make the region less vulnerable to hurricanes, floods and severe winter storms, local officials are updating a hazard mitigation plan that will identify actions that should be taken to reduce the most significant risks.

“It’s not just that there are risks, it’s also that they take a financial toll on us,” said David Murphy, senior project manager at Milone & MacBroom, a Cheshire-based engineering firm.

The firm has been hired by the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments to update its hazard mitigation plan, created in 2012 and set to expire next October. As part of the process of creating a new plan, Murphy led a public informational meeting about the current plan and goals for the new one at the public library on Monday. A second meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at the SCCOG offices in Norwich.

The public is also invited to give input in an online survey at www.surveymonkey.com/r/SCCOGHazard. Comments and questions can also be sent to office@sccog.org.

The plan, Murphy said, has been required by the Federal Emergency Management Agency since 2000 as a condition of receiving grants for hazard mitigation projects such as replacing undersized culverts, stabilizing riverbanks, buying properties vulnerable to flooding and enhancing or building new standby power supplies. The law also requires plans be updated every five years. The new plan, he added, will be the region’s third.

James Butler, executive director of SCCOG, said that while the new plan is being written for the entire 22-town region the agency serves, it will include chapters specific to each town.

“There’s a lot of time being spent with each municipality, with people in the building, wetlands, emergency management, planning and public works departments,” he said.

The timeline for the new plan, Murphy said, is to send a draft version to the state for review by next spring, make revisions, and send a final version to FEMA before next October.

As a result of the current plan, he said, several communities replaced culverts, and upgraded sewage treatment plants to reduce vulnerability to flooding and power outages. Norwich bought the Nutmeg Companies property, which had flooded repeatedly, enabling that business to relocate, and the site of the plant became open space.

But some of the recommendations of the current plan have not yet been acted on, Murphy said, including home buyouts in vulnerable neighborhoods.

“That hasn’t happened yet,” he said.

The new plan will identify risks at the region’s unique facilities, including the Naval Submarine Base, Millstone and Electric Boat. A new element, Murphy said, will include risks to historic and cultural resources.

“These resources can be very much at risk, but very hard to mitigate” by elevating or flood-proofing structures, he said. Sea level rise due to climate change was included in the 2012 plan, and will also be included in the new version, he said.

Specific areas that will be examined include tidal flooding on Poquonnock, Clark and Horton coves on the Thames River; the Yantic River corridor in Bozrah and Norwich; and the Groton and Stonington sides of Mystic, where “chronic flooding is already occurring,” Murphy said. Other vulnerable areas include Niantic, coastal Waterford, Bank Street in New London, Latimer Brook in East Lyme and Shewville and Choat brooks in Preston.

Strategies recommended to reduce risk may include placing utilities underground, strengthening shelters and other critical facilities, creating localized power grids, acquiring and preserving vulnerable lands and increasing tree maintenance, Murphy said. FEMA, he added, is requiring that the plans describe concrete steps that would be taken.

“The actions have to be very specific, with time frames and funding sources,” he said.







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