Jan. 16—GROTON — The town soon will begin a project to develop a plan to help make downtown Mystic more resilient to sea-level rise and climate change.
Downtown Mystic is one of the most vulnerable areas in Groton, as it is low-lying, has a dense population and many "historic homes, businesses, and infrastructure" that were mostly built prior to Federal Emergency Management Agency flood zones and National Flood Insurance Program regulations, according to a grant proposal.
The town anticipates sea levels to rise 20 inches by 2050, according to its grant application.
The town received a $90,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation's Long Island Sound Futures Fund "to educate the public and produce a formalized plan for downtown Mystic that can guide policy and budgeting in the decades to come." The project calls for about $60,000 in matching funds from the town, with $55,000 in staff time and $5,000 in cash, according to town Director of Planning and Development Services Jon Reiner.
The funding is part of $5.4 million in grants announced last month in a news release from the Long Island Sound Futures Fund for projects in Connecticut, New York and Vermont.
According to the Long Island Sound Futures Fund, other grants in the area include $136,160 to the Eastern Connecticut Conservation District for "rain gardens and riparian waterway buffers along two pollinator pathways through Groton, Stonington, Ledyard and Preston;" $59,493 also to the Eastern Connecticut Conservation District for "green infrastructure" and "other stormwater management tools at a coastal condominium complex in Quanaduck Cove" in Stonington; $60,000 to Waterford to restore a fishway at Jordan Mill Pond Dam; and $155,900 to the University of Connecticut to develop a shell recycling program in Groton and Mystic. Each of those projects also has a matching funds component.
The study in downtown Mystic will include "evaluating infrastructure, potential impacts to historic structures, potential impacts to economic activity, and potential impacts to our natural resources," according to the proposal.
The area's watershed discharges directly into Long Island Sound, and the plan will focus on water quality, identifying long-term changes needed "to respond to rising sea levels, and addressing emergency response during times of possible catastrophic storm events," the proposal states.
Consultants will work with town staff to find potential solutions that property and business owners "can do to prepare their location for the impacts of climate change," it adds.
The plan will include "a series of public workshops to gather input of residents and business owners on how they envision sea level rise affecting Downtown Mystic."
Reiner said the town is planning to begin the project in the next month or so and will issue a request for proposals to hire a consultant to help develop the plan.
In his letter of support for the grant application, Town Manager John Burt said the town is "keenly aware of the need to prepare for climate change and sea level rise."
"Downtown Mystic is a historic town center located at the confluence of the Mystic River and Long Island Sound," he wrote. "This area of Groton is densely populated and contains dozens of businesses that stimulate the local economy. This process would allow us a unique experience to plan for the future while engaging and educating our local residents and businesses."
Burt said at a recent Town Council meeting that officials applied last year for a townwide study but were denied. The town decided to then start focusing on specific areas, with the first one being downtown Mystic. He said the town hopes to expand the study to include River Road and major corridors into downtown.
Reiner said the town also is seeking other grants and plans "to study the entire town for resiliency through other funding and efforts."