Seventeen municipalities in Connecticut have been awarded $8.8 million in state grant funding through the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP). These grants are part of the inaugural round of awards from the DEEP’s Climate Resilience Fund (DCRF).

The DCRF is intended to provide funding to assist local governments, nonprofits, and community organizations in researching, developing, and planning new projects to improve climate resilience. The hope is that they can then seek out federal funding for construction and implementation.

Three of these municipalities, Bridgeport, Stamford, and Norwich, received a total of more than $1 million in funding through multiple awards.

In Norwich, all $1,135,000 in grant money is going to the local Public Utility for two flooding-related projects. One is an effort to relocate the Shipping Street sewage pump station away from the flood path of the nearby Thames River.

Second, the utility is working to protect the Bean Hill Substation, which services the local trauma center, an industrial park, and thousands of residents. Protecting major utilities and other community services (like hospitals, water systems, and evacuation routes) from damage due to flooding is among the highest priority for resilience planners. 

Flood mitigation is also the priority for Stamford’s $1,079,250, which will be used for projects protecting two different watersheds. In the Cummings Pond watershed, the city is looking to reduce stormwater flooding. Improper drainage of stormwater and stormwater flooding is less obvious than major floods, but it can lead to dangerous conditions in cities and an increase in pollutants in the water.

“There’s a lot of stormwater that’s not — it’s going straight into our rivers rather than having a chance to go into the ground,” Save the Sound Watershed Developer Nicole Davis explained to CII earlier this year. “And so, the way that we’re kind of thinking about addressing that is how do we get people to start thinking about that impact that what they’re doing has? Because everything on people’s lawns, especially in coastal areas where you’ve got flooding, anything on the road, they all get washed into our storm drain. They all end up in the rivers and streams that we’re swimming in.”

In addition to stormwater improvements, Stamford is also looking to develop projects that will lead to better drainage, as well as relocating or elevating structures that are at risk of flooding.

But flooding isn’t the only type of resilience planning in the works across the state. In coming years, Connecticut is expected to see both an increase in damaging storms as well as higher temperatures and increased droughts. Bridgeport, which has been working on a project to better protect the city against coastal flood risk will now also be part of planning for these projected temperature increases. 

About a quarter of the DCRF money heading to the city will be going to Groundwork Bridgeport, a non-profit organization that, in part, turns blighted properties into community parks and playgrounds. Their goal, according to their website, is to help communities thrive economically and environmentally.

The $249,816 in grant funding will reportedly go toward developing a plan to reduce heat island impacts in the city’s East Side neighborhood. According to the grant announcement, the group will identify “cool corridors” in the area and work with the city on upgrades to the streets to support cooling.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, heat islands are a phenomenon created within urban environments that have densely packed buildings with little-to-no green spaces. The buildings and asphalt roads absorb and reflect heat, causing these areas to be between 1-7 degrees warmer than outlying areas during the day. Efforts to combat these issues include cool roof materials, green roof spaces (rooftop gardens that absorb sunlight as well as stormwater), and cool pavement alternatives.

By cutting down on the effects of heat islands, communities can improve air quality and the standard of living, as well as cut down on energy costs as buildings that reflect heat more efficiently are naturally cooler inside. Cool pavements, specifically those made from permeable materials, can improve safety as well, by providing better stormwater absorption and improved traction during inclement weather.

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An Emmy and AP award-winning journalist, Tricia has spent more than a decade working in digital and broadcast media. She has covered everything from government corruption to science and space to entertainment...

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