Fairfield and Bridgeport unveil plan to protect Ash Creek and prevent further flooding


Fairfield and Bridgeport have teamed up to preserve the spit of sand straddling the town line in an effort to further protect the tidal Ash Creek estuary and the homes surrounding it.

Officials and experts believe that if the sand spit disappears, Great Marsh Island will soon follow and habitat there will be destroyed. This would also increase the risk of flooding for the Black Rock and East Fairfield properties, especially since a large portion of the developed area consists of flat, backfilled wetlands.

“The sand spit is the first line of defense,” said Gail Robinson, president of the Ash Creek Conservation Association.

Officials at Fairfield and Bridgeport have agreed to plant over 30,000 clods of native beach grass and other suitable vegetation as an immediate remedy to stabilize the boom and reduce erosion while working to create a solution. long-term.

The municipalities have also agreed to share the cost of the plantations, which is estimated to be between $ 80,000 and $ 90,000, said Timothy Bishop, director of the Fairfield conservation department, adding that his department, the engineering department and the first Selection office worked collaboratively on the effort for Fairfield.

Robinson said one of the main drivers of erosion has been the dredging Fairfield has done for the adjacent marina over the years and brought the sand to Jennings Beach instead of putting it back on the sand spit. Other causes include the development of reclaimed swamps, as well as severe storms, including Irene and Sandy.

The sand spit collects the sand deposited just off the coast, creating a sort of beach. By its very nature, it is constantly evolving.

There were several meetings on the issue in September and October between the association, the state department of energy and environmental protection, elected officials at the local, state and federal levels, as well as various departments. in Fairfield and Bridgeport.

“Based on these recent meetings, the two municipalities agree that the lower area of ​​Ash Creek, where the sand spit is located, is a valuable natural resource that brings considerable ecological value to the environment. natural for both Fairfield and Bridgeport, ”said Bishop.

Robinson stressed the need to protect the Sand Spit and its surroundings.

“Our intertidal wetlands are really important,” said Robinson. “They are like a sponge and absorb floods.”

She said they are also critical wildlife habitat and a natural bed of seashells. If the sand spit is gone, there is a risk that the area will become another bay.

“We are losing all the biodiversity that comes with tidal wetlands and that would be a shame because it is such a beautiful area,” said Robinson.

Rowena White, spokesperson for Bridgeport, said the city is assessing the deterioration of the sand spit.

“We have had productive meetings internally and with the City of Fairfield and the Ash Creek Association to begin collecting data and historical facts on the environmental effects on the boom,” she said.

“There is definitive progress and solutions are imminent with the two communities working together,” White added.

This isn’t the first time Bridgeport and Fairfield have considered teaming up on the spit.

Ash Creek Conservation Association released a spire restoration plan in 2014 in hopes of using relief money after Sandy. But with the change of administration at Bridgeport in 2015, those plans were scrapped.

These plans now serve as groundwork for future plantings, with final details still being worked out. City officials meet with Quinn, who created the association’s original replant plan, as well as botanists and other experts.

“The plan would be to install the plugs as soon as possible and allow them to establish the next growing season, while providing ecological value and stability to the sand itself,” Bishop said. “The city has asked independent botanists for a follow-up on the best timeframe to install the herbs and whether an updated plan is recommended given the age of the original.”

Robinson said plantings are expected to take place this month or November.

“If you try to plant in the spring, you might experience a drought, but if you plant in the fall, the plants have time to take root,” she said.

She added that there was also enough humidity at this time of year to help the plants survive.

Robinson said they were thrilled and excited about the resurgence of the restoration plan. “This is only the first step,” she added.

The association is working with the State and the University of Connecticut to see if the Sand Spit and Ash Creek can be incorporated into an ongoing study on climate change and water levels to help determine why the erosion occurs and how to fix it.

Robinson said sea level rise is particularly prevalent along Long Island Sound, as the land sinks and collects more water depending on shape and rising temperatures.

If accepted into the study, Robinson said Fairfield and Bridgeport could try to get funding in the spring.

“We cannot apply for a grant until we know what to do,” she said, adding that the association could facilitate but municipalities must apply because it is their land.

This study and others would also be used by Fairfield to determine what to do with the sand during future dredging.

“At this time, we do not plan to place sand or other material on the boom, with the exception of the plantings, until a coastal survey is completed to answer the resulting detailed technical questions. , such as how much to put on the boom, where it should be placed, etc. “Bishop said.” When the project reaches this stage in the future, coastal experts, engineers and other stakeholders, in addition to the permits, will have to make their contribution. “

He said this will be considered and discussed in future steps.

“As a coastal engineering study can take several years, the planting plan is important to the integrity of the boom in the meantime,” Bishop said.

Robinson also said the association would like to see Bridgeport and Fairfield jointly manage the land for the long term.

“At the moment, it is not managed by either of the two,” said Robinson.

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