New Haven gets $25 million grant to prevent flooding at Union Station, nearby areas

Photo of Chatwan Mongkol

NEW HAVEN — The Federal Emergency Management Agency awarded the city $25.1 million to assist its effort to build “a wall, a pipe and a pump” to prevent flooding at Union Station and nearby areas, officials announced Monday.

The city and the state  will add approximately $10 million, totaling around $35 million for the work. City Engineer Giovanni Zinn said the fund will go toward a 10-foot stormwater pipe from the corridor of West Water Street and Union Avenue out to the harbor and the living shoreline project at Long Wharf.

“It doubles the capacity in getting out to the harbor by having a very large pipe,” Zinn said, noting that it also will dovetail with the $160 million flood wall project.

Zinn said the city anticipates spending three years on this project from completing paperwork with FEMA to designing and constructing. Since the project will mostly happen underground, Zinn said the construction would have minimal impact on people's day-to-day lives.

Alder Carmen Rodriguez, D-6, said she hears concerns from her constituents in the area every time it floods. She said the project will prevent damages to property as ell as people’s lives, so emergency personnel don’t have to remove people from their homes every time it rains.

“Although we can’t see that shiny bell, it’s underground, it’s going to be shiny for those who take the rail, for those who live in this area, for all the areas that get flooded,” Rodriguez said. “It’s safety, safety, safety.”

Mayor Justin Elicker said the city has been experiencing increased storms such as the one post-Labor Day weekend that disrupted police operation and access to Union Station.

U.S. Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro, D-3, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said New Haven was one of 53 municipalities awarded the funding from the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities program from a pool of more than 700 applications. She said no one is immune to the effects of climate change.

“We’ve got flooding, drought, heat, erosion,” DeLauro said. “Connecticut experienced 15 extreme weather events. Hurricanes Sandy and Ida, they cost about $5 billion to Connecticut families.”

Even though there’s nothing that can be done to stop natural disasters, DeLauro said there should be measures in place to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Gov. Ned Lamont said even if the project isn’t flashy, he wants people to think about what it would mean if the water keeps rising at Union Station as a major transportation hub.

“What type of a disaster that would be,” Lamont said. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it — I think that’s the wrong philosophy.”

How will climate change impact New Haven?

From heat waves to floods and more intense storms, climate change experts shared with city leaders at the Board of Alders City Services and Environmental Policy Committee meeting earlier this month the impacts from climate change within the city.

John Truscinski of the University of Connecticut's Institute for Resilience and Climate Adaptation said the city will see a temperature increase by 2050 of up to 5 degrees, with around 37 more days per year with temperature warmer than 77 degrees and 5 more days a year with temperature warmer than 90 degrees.

Truscinski said the city normally experiences a day warmer than 100 degrees, but by 2050 that would become four days per  year. 

For flooding, Truscinski said the city should expect a sea level rise of up to 20 inches by 2050, increasing the frequency of floods.

Instead of facing a major flooding event — a disaster of more than three feet of water — every 15-20 years, Truscinski said it would happen every three to five years.

These natural hazards will affect the communities of color more because of the built environment and a more limited access to resiliency resources, according to Mark Mitchell of Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice.

Those areas include the city's Fair Haven, Newhallville, West Rock, The Hill, East Shore, City Point, Long Wharf and Edgewood neighborhoods, according to the CIRCA’s climate change vulnerability indexes for heat and floods.