Fairfield’s beaches, rivers, and tidal marshes are coveted natural resources – centerpieces of its beauty and recreational offerings. But sitting in a coastal flood plain that was largely tidal marsh before being developed are over 3,800 (15%) of our homes, five churches, historical homes and buildings, and essential town operational infrastructure.
October 2017 CIRCA (Connecticut Institute for Resilience and Climate Adaptation) projections anticipate a sea level rise of up to 20 inches by 2050 for coastal Connecticut. It also projects more intense and frequent weather events leading to increased risk of both coastal and inland flooding.
The Flood & Erosion Control Board (FECB) is responsible for development and oversight of flood and erosion mitigation measures to increase the resiliency of our beaches, wetlands and infrastructure. CT State statutes require that sea level rise be considered in state and local conservation and development planning.
Achievements to Date
- Fairfield has an approved FECB master plan that was recently updated by the ACOE (Army Corps of Engineers) that would protect the majority of the Town infrastructure and residences located in the flood plain as well as address the risks of inland flooding in the Rooster River areas and in the downtown/ railroad underpass areas. However, this plan is extremely expensive to implement and we are in the process of exploring options for funds to study and cost-effectively implement several key sections of the plan. Phase 2 would be to secure funding to do the actual implementation, likely through a combination of grants, resiliency funds and bonding.
- The Town has authorized three parts of this plan to date: (1) protecting our wastewater treatment plant and nearby Town facilities from a 500-year storm with a large berm; (2) installing a large pump station that would allow us to pump stormwater out of the flood plain within 24 hours so we do not see the 4-5 days of flooding we experienced after Hurricane Sandy; and (3) exploring the design and implementation of detention basins to mitigate large flood events in the Rooster River watershed.
- Planning amidst uncertainty about the degree of sea level rise. The current CIRCA projection of 20 inches by 2050 is the best science we have today, but that will be updated and verified every 10 years
- Uncertainty of funding for mitigation projects
- Promoting resiliency programs for the roughly 3,000+ residential houses and key parts of Town infrastructure in flood plain that would be impacted by climate change and sea level rise
- Mitigating nuisance flooding that can make our coastal roads impassable in major weather events and creates a safety risk to residents
Benefits of an active flood and erosion control plan
- Planning for intermittent flooding – such as a heavy rain or storm surge – as well as permanent flooding due to sea level rise
- Shaping current zoning and building regulatory decisions that would mitigate the impact of future sea level rise on both residential construction as well as Town facilities and look at options for inland flooding
- Taking both current flood plain areas and future projections into account in developing short- and long-term infrastructure plans
2030 Plan Goals* Goals:
- Secure ACOE approval and implement the Engineered Beach management program
- Secure funding and implement the South Benson Pump Station and drainage plan
- Secure grant and/or Town funding for all studies in the FECB master plan so that the Town is in a position to apply for future grants to mitigate future flooding impacts on our Town infrastructure and residences
- Secure funding and implement flood mitigation efforts in the Rooster River area
- Ensure that the relevant departments have the necessary resources to implement our hazard mitigation plans and protect our Town residents in the event of a significant storm or flood event
- Review the zoning and building requirements in the flood plain
*Some goals are ambitious, and may need more time to achieve target participation rates; others can be achieved sooner, but work on all goals should begin as soon as possible
How Do We Reach Our Goals?
- Develop consensus on an overall long-term Town plan and execute prioritized elements of the plan as listed above over time
- Identify and utilize all available financial funding options