Fairfield needs to embrace a goal of total flood protection

FI-Letter-to-the-EditorTo the Editor:

At last Wednesday’s Board of Selectmen meeting, the Penfield Building Committee (PBC) presented a series of options for restoring Penfield One. They recommended Option 7 (Modify & Raise Building disposing of the lockers) be the one the town approves, which the Selectman did. Now we have to wait to see if the Board of Finance and the RTM also vote to approve.

The PBC has worked long and hard to come up with their recommendations however, they were working to what I feel was an incomplete directive from the Board of Selectman. The Committee’s charge was without due regard for those living and the hundreds of millions invested in the flood plain that lies behind Penfield Beach.

The town public works department and FECB have developed and continue to work on a master flood protection plan designed to protect the town against the 1% or 100 year flood. The town recently submitted a number of grant requests for funding to enable construction of portions of the master flood protection plan. An HMGP grant application submitted by the town in November 2013 envisions the top of levee and floodwall is to be between elevations +16 to +18 feet (NAVD88). This would provide protection for the 100 year (1%) flood, including effects of wave run up and incorporates 1-foot of freeboard.

The town Flood and Erosion Control Board (FECB) has attended most PBC meetings and have lobbied for minimum storm surge protection to elevation 15 (the floor and deck height of the option 7 pavilion is 14.5) from the current elevation 12. But because the committee wasn’t originally given the charge by the BOS to stop flood waters from passing through this property, they have left existing flood protection at elevation 12. That elevation was topped during Sandy.

It is important to note that in July 2013 the FEMA Base Flood Elevation for the Pavilion site increased from 11 to 13 feet and the Zone classification went from “A” (still water) to “V” (wave action). The requested increase of 3 feet to the bulkhead or sea wall would not inhibit views from the pavilion deck, which is planned at elevation 14.5, or use of the beach yet would stop storm waters from passing over this property in all but the very worst storms and then minimally.

If the town leaders aren’t willing to bring the Penfield One property storm protection to a higher elevation, then what message are the town leaders sending to those in the flood plain and those who will be affected by the construction of the proposed levee system?

Fairfield needs to embrace a goal of total flood protection and take advantage of every opportunity to begin the process to implement it. That should begin with Penfield One.

Rick Grauer


Flood and Erosion Control Board

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