Residents continue to recover from the aftermath left in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the largest recorded storm in our lifetime. Sandy has permanently changed the beach area in Fairfield. It seems roughly one third of the houses are being bulldozed and put into dumpsters, one third are for sale, and the other third are being raised to the new ‘code’ – 14 feet above sea level.
“I think this has been traumatic for the residents in the beach area. The nature and character of our beach area is definitely changing and that will leave a lasting impact,” said First Selectman Mike Tetreau during a recent interview.
Concerns: “I’m hearing from one resident after another that even though they’ve paid their flood insurance premiums for years and even though flood insurance is supposed to cover up to $250,000 of damage – the adjusters are not giving residents (with contractor estimates) the full amount they need to rebuild their homes. This is a violation of the public trust. I think the Federal Government and the State government need to correct this as soon as possible. People cannot get back into their homes. I think that’s the current day crisis. The flood insurance companies, people and organizations need to pay up. The people should get the Insurance coverage they’ve paid for," Tetreau said.
Save the Sound Concerns: Based on the damage to habitats, there is significant concern that once breeding season begins, birds will be forced to nest where they have never before, therefore increased Stewardship and awareness building is required to ensure our critical species are protected. (For more info pls email Patrick Comins from Audubon CT: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Summer Accessibility: The Jackie Durrell Pavilion will be open for normal business. Penfield One will be undergoing significant redesign and will therefore be closed for the summer. The estimated renovation, raising and possibility of its being moved further from the water, will continue through the end of this year. There will however be temporary restrooms and snack facilities available.
Marina and Harbors: Tetreau noted that the marinas and harbors, "suffered significant filling in from sand erosion. There are projects underway to dredge the channels and open them up as soon as possible." The necessary permits and work orders have been submitted to the regulatory agencies to ensure the integrity of the channel and the health of the marine life is safeguarded. These projects should be completed by early summer.
Water Quality: according to the Save the Sound Organization "Super storm Sandy caused the release of millions of gallons of ill-treated sewage into Long Island Sound and its tributaries, adding large volumes of nitrogen and bacteria."
Debris in Creeks and Marshes: “The Department of Public Works (DPW) is responsible to clean these – budget cuts notwithstanding. We are waiting for special equipment from the State to help us clean these areas. Our conservation Dept. is working with the State to coordinate that," said Tetreau. According to the Save the Sound Organization ‘aside from the direct impacts along the coast, further damage is likely due to the extensive wrack mats that are smothering habitats and are creating potential invasive species problems. It is expected to cost half a billion dollars to restore them.’
Trees: Over two thousand tree’s came down this storm. There has been and will continue to be ongoing tree removal throughout the town. Due to a recent DPW budget reduction “we’re going to have to live with a little less funding and be a little patient – but we will get to all the trees.”
Costs: A Federal Grant to the State has been filed and the Town is working with FEMA to acquire reimbursement. “We’re working with the State to get that money to our residents as quickly as possible.” According to Joe Michelangelo, Director of Public Works, the town of Fairfield spent approximately $4.2 million within the first 8 weeks of the storm – used as operating budget money (i.e.; fire dept., police dept., solid waste, and public works). Since then an additional $5.2 million – capital nonrecurring expense, has been spent/allocated (repairing pipes, roads, harbors, beaches & facilities) totaling $9.4 million for roughly 24 concurring projects. The Town is hopeful for an approx. 75% reimbursement from FEMA.
“As always I’ve been tremendously impressed with the resiliency of the beach area neighborhood and its residents. I think this is a watershed event, a milestone in terms of the character of the beach. Storm Sandy literally has a lasting impact on the nature and the character of our beach area. It will not be the same again. Mother Nature has spoken and has spoken loudly. Someone commented – there was a reason the Indians didn’t settle south of the Post Road and we have found out,” continued Tetreau.
For more information about insurance claims please contact the CT Insurance Department’s Consumer Affairs unit at 860.297.3889 Gerard O’Sullivan, Program Manager. For more information and to inquire about beach cleanup dates please visit www.savethesound.org