Kimberly Drelich – theday.com
Groton ― As the town seeks answers on how to better protect downtown Mystic from the effects of sea level rise and climate change, people on Tuesday can share their own experiences and learn more about a resiliency and sustainability plan that is being developed.
“Mystic has always had a lot of flooding based on its position on the coast, and there’s a recognition that the flooding is getting worse and that there are other climate change concerns, like heat, that we also want to have a better understanding of,” said Megan Granato, sustainability and resilience manager for the Town of Groton.
The first of three planned public workshops will be held 5 p.m.-6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, in the Fellowship Hall of the Union Baptist Church, located at 119 High St. in Mystic.
“This will be our first public meeting, and we will be talking with participants about their experiences with flooding and other climate change impacts in downtown Mystic,” Granato said. “This feedback will help inform the project team of the vulnerable locations and infrastructure the plan will need to address. During the meeting we will also provide an overview of the project and its next steps.”
The town hopes to complete the project in the fall of 2023, Granato said.
The town received a $90,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Long Island Sound Futures Fund for the project, with the town pledging a $60,000 contribution in matching funds, including about $55,000 in staff time and $5,000 in cash, Jon Reiner, director of planning and development services for the town, said in January.
The grant application identified downtown Mystic, where officials have been advised to plan for an anticipated sea level rise of 20 inches by 2050, as one of the town’s most vulnerable areas, because it is low-lying and densely populated and has many “historic homes, businesses, and infrastructure,” that were mostly built prior to Federal Emergency Management Agency flood zones and National Flood Insurance Program regulations.
Granato said public engagement is key for the plan’s success, and people can participate through public workshops and the town’s community engagement platform, GreaterGroton.com.
GZA GeoEnvironmental, Inc., the consultant for the project, will be going out to the field to do assessments, including of buildings, utility lines, and other critical infrastructure, that will be compiled into a vulnerability assessment.
“Once that vulnerability assessment is complete, we will be looking into opportunities to improve the resilience of the community in our study area,” Granato said.
As the town’s sustainability and resilience manager, Granato not only will oversee the plan, but will help the town prepare for and respond to the impacts of climate change. She said she will also pursue ways for the town to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. Starting next year, the town will be developing a climate action plan.
“Megan brings a wealth of experience to the position,” Groton Town Manager John Burt said. “She has hit the ground running and is already active seeking funding opportunities and providing valuable input as we make future plans. We’re very lucky to have her, and I’m confident she’ll make a very positive difference in our efforts to address climate change and sea level rise.”
Granato began the new town position in August. She has a background in natural resource management and most recently worked for the state of Maryland on Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts, including climate adaptation.
“I am from Connecticut originally and am excited to return to my home state to work on these important issues of resilience and sustainability,” she said.