An eye on Mother Nature: Mitigation plan outlines city’s environmental risks
Joseph Griffith, the city’s director of permitting and land use, this week gave the Planning and Zoning Board his annual update on the city’s Hazard Mitigation Committee, and he said he encourages residents to view the hazard resources on the city website.
The city’s Hazard Mitigation Plan can be found online at ci.milford.ct.us/emergency-management-services.
Griffith encouraged residents to sign up for Milford Alerts, which sends emergency information updates to registered residents by email and phone.
“More than 25 percent of all property owners have land in the flood zone, which covers a third of the city,” said Griffith.
He said the Planning and Zoning office has resources for residents with regard to both flood zones and flood insurance. The link is ci.milford.ct.us/planning-and-zoning.
Griffith said the city’s Hazard Mitigation Plan has been updated through the South Central Regional Council of Governments, which is a consortium of 13 other towns in New Haven County. The local plan was last updated in 2013.
The 699-page draft document is dated April 23, 2018 and may be found at the council’s website scrcog.org/draft-hazard-mitigation.
Public comments on the document will be accepted until May 14, and contact information is available at the link.
“The purpose of the plan is to mitigate against the loss of life and damage to property during natural disasters,” Griffith told the board, commenting that National Hurricane Preparedness Week is observed May 6 to 12. He said individuals and businesses are encouraged to make their own emergency preparedness plans.
Hazard plan details
Information for each town is grouped by topic in different sections of the report. The largest section for Milford is pages 4-243 to 4-260. This includes “Critical Facilities,” which is a list of important buildings, including the four fire stations, the police department, City Hall, the Parsons Government Center, Milford Hospital, nursing homes, and the two wastewater treatment facilities.
The plan displays overview maps of Milford, including federal flood zones, dam failure inundation zones, storm surge hazard areas, areas affected by a projected two-foot rise in sea levels, and wildfire risk areas.
Charts list “Vulnerable Assets” in Milford, noting that all 19,387 parcels and 22,397 buildings are vulnerable to hurricanes/tropical storms, severe thunderstorms, and tornadoes. However, only 665 buildings would be threatened by dam failure, and 175 buildings by coastal erosion. A storm surge could affect up to 3,659 properties and 2,132 buildings.
The chart “Repetitive Loss and Severe Repetitive Loss Properties” notes that Milford has had 1,511 repetitive losses affecting 533 properties with $50.3 million in payments. There have been 142 severe repetitive loss claims affecting 27 properties with $5.3 million in insurance claims.
One table labeled “Problem Statements-Milford” notes “Primary Hazards of Concern.” These include falling trees that could block roads and cause power outages and phragmites that create a fire hazard.
Flooding was identified as a primary hazard. Coastal storms (hurricanes, tropical storms and nor’easters) are also of high concern. Sea level rise and snowstorms (with the risk of roof collapse) are the other noted hazards.
Geographic areas of concern include any water related area, including properties along the Wepawaug River, the shoreline, and tidal areas.
“Vulnerable Community Assets” include city buildings with flat roofs that may collapse under a heavy snow load, and other facilities at risk of flooding, including the two wastewater treatment facilities, the animal shelter, the Tri Beach and Margaret Egan Centers, and many sewer pump stations.
“Nearly $1 billion in city infrastructure is at risk to hurricane storm surge (up to Category 4),” states the report on page 4-260.
The report notes that since Storm Irene, more than 100 homes have been elevated, which presents an unknown challenge with regard to wind resistance.
“We do not know if the building code is as effective when a house is raised 10-15 feet off the ground. A study is being conducted by UConn to examine the effect of wind on elevated structures, but we do not know the findings,” states the report on page 4-259.
The report also notes that elevated homes present a different fire risk.
“A house fire of an elevated home on Melba Street presented a new challenge for city firefighters as the air moved differently underneath the open space under the home and the close proximity of elevated houses on either side of the burning structure also caught on fire,” notes a write-up on page 4-259.
Pages 6-446 to 6-451 list 38 items in Milford under “Status of Prior Mitigation Actions.” Examples of completed projects include drainage improvements along Naugatuck and Bridgeport avenues, renovations to the dock at the end of High Street, and rebuilding the walls and flood gate at Silver Sands State Park.
Partially completed projects include improving the drainage system at Bayview Beach, elevating Beachland Avenue, and analysis of resilience options at Crescent Beach and Bay Street, a paper street.
Delayed projects due to lack of funding include environmental improvements at Eisenhower Park, flood control along Tumble Brook, and improved drainage on Creeland Avenue.