Milford seeking input on trees, flooding and more in new survey

What a 10-foot storm surge would look like in Milford. 

What a 10-foot storm surge would look like in Milford. 

Tim Guzda/Staff graphic

MILFORD — As one regional governmental agency's hazard mitigation plan comes together, Milford's concerns about coastal flooding and sea level rise are squarely in the crosshairs.

The South Central Regional Council of Governments is in the midst of preparing its plan which aims to provide the region with a comprehensive examination of all natural hazards affecting the area, help reduce the South Central Region's vulnerability and ease the burden of keeping communities safe and resilient.

Residents can participate by filling out an online survey on the council of governments' website.

Milford, Bethany, Branford, East Haven, Guilford, Hamden, Madison, Meriden, New Haven, North Branford, North Haven, Orange, Wallingford, West Haven and Woodbridge are part of the hazard mitigation plan. 

For Milford, MaryRose Palumbo, the city's inland wetland compliance officer, coastal flooding and sea level rise are major concerns but only part of what officials need to keep a watchful eye on.

"A little less obvious concern is flooding along our rivers," Palumbo said, "but we also have concerns about wildfire because of some wildfires we have had in the past, so they are reasonable concerns for citizens."

Since many cities are involved, Palumbo said some of the concerns the plan references are not specific to Milford but can still have some effect.

"There are other natural hazards that could occur here, like tornados and earthquakes," she said. 

Besides coastal flooding and rising sea levels, Palumbo said trees are a significant concern for residents in the area.

"We have a large number of trees, and we like our trees because they provide protection and help with cooling," she said. "But there are trees that might need some maintenance, and we have some diseases and pests that we have to deal with and migration of trees due to climate change."

Palumbo said tree maintenance is vital to ensure they don't become a hazard.

"I saw in the news recently that the folks down in Redding were anxious because their electric company was going in and taking out trees, but their other concern is they didn't want to lose their power," she said. "So there is a balance."

The plan does address trees and what would be a good and responsible way to manage trees in the different cities, added Palumbo.

"We also need to plan to bring more trees in because as trees die off, we need to make sure we are putting trees back to make sure we have them in the future," she said.

The SCRCOG Hazard Mitigation Plan Update will focus on identifying, assessing, and mitigating natural hazards such as winter storms, hurricanes, and coastal flooding. The plan will result in a list of mitigation actions or projects each municipality can take to save lives and reduce damages. It will also double as a "floodplain management plan" under FEMA's Community Rating System.

"It's very important that we participate in the plan and we have a plan because if you are going to apply for federal grants after a declaration, you need to have a plan in place to receive those federal funds," said Palumbo. "It's a mechanism for the federal government to ensure that the city is looked at holistically and what are the things that are a risk and how do the citizens think we can best approach them and then work on them as best we can."

Palumbo said the city has worked on multiple projects using federal funding, including the revetment wall in Morningside.

On Nov. 7, the first SCRCOG hazard mitigation plan public virtual meeting was held. There will be another public meeting in December.

"The biggest concern brought up during the meeting was coastal flooding and sea level rise," said Palumbo. "Some of the folks have elevated homes, and some of them don't."

The Hazard Mitigation Plan is just starting, and there is a survey on the council of governments' website, which Palumbo said residents of Milford should complete.

"The survey doesn't close until after the public meeting in December, so there is still time," she said. "There are 54,000 of us, and every one of our voices needs to be heard, so there's a large array of issues to look at, and some issues might be more pressing than others."

After the public meeting in December, the plan gets formulated, and it will go on the council of governments' website for the comment period.

"People can look at the plan and give us their thoughts and opinions," said Palumbo. "Once those comments come in, we will tweak the plan, and in February, it goes to the state and FEMA where they will review it and hopefully give us a direction in the spring or early summer. Once the federal government approves the plan, it'll be presented by the board of aldermen for acceptance."