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    Thursday, February 02, 2023

    South Norwalk is among 7 neighborhoods picked for climate study. Here's what it means.

    Norwalk — The South Norwalk neighborhood is one of seven communities in New Haven and Fairfield counties chosen by the state for climate mitigation planning.

    In the first meeting of the recently formed Resilient South Norwalk Steering Committee, local leaders and state project managers outlined the city's involvement in the Resilient Connecticut program.

    Norwalk's inclusion in the Resilient Connecticut program was announced in August, but the first of four advisory committee meetings took place last week.

    Resilient Connecticut is a collaboration of the Connecticut Institute for Resilience and Climate Adaptation, which is operated by the University of Connecticut, along with state agencies, regional councils of governments (COGs) and municipalities, according to the program.

    Resilient Connecticut is part of the HUD National Disaster Resilience Competition and was established in 2018 to help guide the state in planning framework for climate mitigation in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.

    The program is focused on projects that lessen the effects of climate change in New Haven and Fairfield counties, CIRCA's Director of Resilience Planning John Truscinski said during the Nov. 30 advisory meeting.

    "In 2020 to 2021, we did a whole series of workshops with COGs in Fairfield and New Haven counties and several mapping initiatives and vulnerability assessments," Truscinski said. "Overall, the goal was to understand where some of the climate vulnerabilities — particularly for flooding and heat — were located in Fairfield and New Haven counties. We also looked at the idea of social vulnerabilities and vulnerable populations."

    South Norwalk was chosen as one of seven vulnerable populations as the area's ZIP code rates high on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Social Vulnerability Index. The 06854 ZIP code was designated by the state Department of Public Health as among the highest in the index, which weighs factors including poverty, employment, housing, access to transportation, education and other variables.

    "That effort identified a whole list of resiliency opportunity areas, places we felt there was an unmet need and there was a need for some additional planning work to develop strategies and projects to mitigate climate risks," Truscinski said. "Out of 64 locations identified in two counties, South Norwalk was one of seven we moved into what we called phase 3 and this is the start of the phase 3 process."

    As a shoreline community with a high social vulnerability index, SoNo is at risk for serious damage should another superstorm occur. Under state guidelines, shoreline towns are working on infrastructure planning that would account for a sea level rise of 20 inches by 2050, Truscinski said.

    "There was a process used to select that number, which included analysis. There's been recent report by NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) that just came out this year that basically lowered the range of possibilities to about (the year) 2100," Truscinski said. "The finding of that report is 20 inches. Twenty inches is the upper bound of the likely range at 2050."

    The goal of Resilience Connecticut is to provide a roadmap for the selected communities to prepare for the sea level rise, according to Lorayne Black, a project manager and architect at engineering firm AECOM.

    The program has four objectives in SoNo: to mitigate climate impacts, determine community member and stakeholder priorities, design scientifically informed adaptations and implement them, Black said.

    Specific areas of focus include flood mitigation from the harbor and in the southern bounds of the study area, in Village Creek, establishing evacuation corridors and increase connectivity to other areas of the city and develop adaptation options to reduce the impact of extreme temperatures and alleviate heat islands within South Norwalk, which could include expanding the area's tree canopy, according to the program.

    Five tasks are included in the program: engagement, future condition analysis, alternatives and conceptual designs, a benefit/cost analysis and a final report, Black said.

    The program directors have been conducting a condition analysis and expect the final report to be ready by the end of May, Black said.

    "We're getting ready for public workshops coming up in a few weeks, wrapping up the conditions analysis and at the end of this phase, will prepare memorandum," Black said.

    In the new year, a series of three public workshops will be held for community members to voice their flood and climate change concerns in SoNo, Black said.

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