P L A N N I N G A L T E R N A T
I V E S O L U T I O N S F O R W E S T O N I
N O R D E R T O L I V E I N A
S U S T A I N A B L E W A Y : Standards
and Individual Security in Weston and a Timeline for Action, a Study by
"About Town" inspired by the effects of Hurricane Sandy.
CONTENTS: The Chapters
NEWS: September visit over by Pope to U.S.A...comments on gay marriage/human freedom after touching down in Rome.
2015 LWVCT EDUCATION FUND SYMPOSIUM ON INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
Former Commissioner of D.E.E.P. Professor Dan Esty addressed the issue of sustainability at Yale in April 2015...video of his presentation here: http://www.lwvweston.org/SIR.html
From the LWV of Weston video...
Prof. Esty now believes that the people themselves, from the bottom up, should control the argument.
Not until we all believe the same thing will we be able to vanquish the climate change threat.
He described his efforts on the 1992 Rio agreement which President Bush
(HW) signed, and how he thought it was all taken care of!
So he went into teaching. And now he knows this "top down" approach doesn't work.
Senate Democrats to Unveil Climate Change Bill
By CORAL DAVENPORT
SEPT. 22, 2015
WASHINGTON — Senate Democratic leaders on Tuesday plan to unveil a
measure intended to signal their full-throated support of President
Obama’s aggressive climate change agenda to 2016 voters and to the rest
of the world.
The Democrats hope that the bill, sponsored by Senator Maria Cantwell,
of Washington, the top Democrat on the Senate Energy Committee, will
demonstrate a new unity for the party on energy and climate change, and
define Democrats’ approach to global warming policy in the coming
The Cantwell bill would direct the United States to use its leadership
to secure commitments from other countries to cut emissions. The measure
would require electric utilities to increase energy efficiency by 20
percent from current levels by 2030. It would also extend tax credits
for electric utilities that use wind and solar power, increase spending
on research into energy-efficient trucks and factories, and enact
policies that would make it cheaper for consumers to invest in their own
At least two Democrats from states dependent on fossil fuels — Joe
Manchin III of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota — will
not sign on to the bill, their offices said.
“This is about what we can get done here, now,” Ms. Cantwell said.
“There is more coalescence around this, for sure. This is about getting
people from Middle America to support some of these concepts.”
If NYC is an example of
the urban - Weston, in these terms, is rural. What is it about
Weston that makes living here like Feng shui?
In an official-studded announcement that is turning out to be
one of the worst kept environmental program secrets in the state, Gov.
Dannel P. Malloy Friday will unveil plans for a new Institute for
Community Resilience and Climate Adaptation at the Avery Point Campus
of the University of Connecticut....
HURRICANE SANDY: Evergreen trees were hit hardest
here - our Kousa Dogwood held its
"Depth to bedrock"map from D-O - lighter shade of grey, closer to
bedrock - shallower root system? Speaking of Sandy, New Haven tree
story at PURA.
What is so special about Weston, Connecticut? We're #1 for being
the least non-residentially zoned community of all 169 in CT! Bridgeport Hydraulic Company had owned what became the
Ordway Preserve ("Devil's Den"), having flooded a good part of the
original town of Weston in order to build the Saugatuck Reservoir in
the 1930's. City-centric development patterns held until the
1950's and 1960's.
We were ahead of the game. Weston was so remote in the mid 1960's
that it showed as a blank spot on the map developed by SWRPA, putting
together all 8 towns and their own plans of development. Before
we talked about sustainability, shortly after the first "Earth Day,"
Weston, CT did it's own "Weston Environmental Resources Manual"
in 1976. If we use the new
Google tool to check the origin of the word "sustainability" we
find that it came into use...in the 1970's!
Since no one really knows how much water is below the surface, and no
one can guarantee how much rainfall there will be, Weston has always
tried not to overtax its natural resources by giving into arguments
about increasing ratables by permitting industrial and business
development. Neither have town boards and commissions weakened
under the threat of lawsuits for other changes to the all-residential
(special permits for apartments and home occupations; farming
permitted as of right) nature of the town..
Sounds like a plan to be sustainable to me!
of "sustainability." Sustainability in a general sense is the capacity to support,
maintain or endure. Since the 1980s human sustainability has been
related to the integration of environmental, economic, and social
dimensions towards global stewardship
and responsible management of resources What is
the E.P.A. definition of "sustainability?" "Sustainability is based on a simple principle:
we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or
indirectly, on our natural environment. Sustainability creates
and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in
productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic and
other requirements of present and future generations." So says
is the "triple bottom line?" "The TBL is an accounting framework that incorporates
dimensions of performance: social, environmental and financial. This
differs from traditional reporting frameworks as it includes ecological
(or environmental) and social measures that can be difficult to assign
appropriate means of measurement. The TBL dimensions are also commonly
called the three Ps: people, planet and profits. We will refer to these
as the 3Ps." From a research study at Indiana University. CHAPTER
as a guiding principle is something the Planet needs. But what is it?
While Weston is a small town with volunteer Fire
Department and EMS, few employees and volunteer government, and it does
not have a written plan for sustainability, it has lived by sustainable
principals for as long as I can recall. In fact, it is and has
been at the cutting edge.
Why do we say this? It adopted
sustainability goals - the environmental kind. At this point in
the 21st century, some are questioning if the entrenched focus on
protecting the natural environment goes against future financial
We are now into
the "triple bottom line" theory - exchange "minimizing increases in
property tax" for "profits."
It is true that you pay better attention to societal problems if they
fall close to home. Example of this in the introduction above, out
door. Obvious to me is that this is a global problem as the
weather patterns change and as water increases in temperature, hurricanes
become more powerful.
In Weston, we have effectively lived "sustainability" since 1976 (Other ideas from "Weston
Environmental Resolurces Manual" - Dominski-Oakrock Study).
In 1993, the Weston Water Study
investigated water quality in our private wells (a rigorous
investigation by Dr. Jan Dunn). There was no way to accurately
assess water quantity - but the concept of maintaining a balanced water
cycle was suggested as good policy, in principle.
All the participants in decision making about the Weston environment
must be on the same page - coordinated. For example:
Sustainibility, Bike-Ped, perhaps eventually, Lachat;
Community Services Coalition (and Social Services Department);
if not already doing so, encourage sustainable development - note
"depth to bedrock" - darker is deeper on this map (legend).
Develop amendment to zoning regs that addresses standards for municipal
and individual property standards for sustainability;
Continue policy of sustainable finance to keep Weston self-sufficient;
Expand community spirit policy by sharing facilities with Town of
Weston (i.e. when schools are closed because of weather event,
make building (s) served by tertiary treatment plant available to town)
since the taxpayers paid for the facilities, that makes sense!
Become regional leaders on sustainability - Weston as an example of one
of Connecticut's Town Meeting towns (@110 in CT out of 169
total). Develop pilot study of organizational structure that
works in small towns.
Those of us inland and upland, on shallow
soil areas suffered from Sandy, too! Federal
Role: Nature Conservancy's work on "sustainability" here.
Will the latest stress on FEMA produce a
change in standards for flood insurance, etc.? Will we change the
way we build in flood plains? How about Climate Change re:
coastal communities? How about the Army
Corps of Engineers role in future policy on these matters?
The immediate questions will be answered; how does the new State
Plan of C&D address this? Where in the
Plan is sustainibility mentioned?
Make that "Three Storm" panel, now. Read of State Senator e-mail on
relief $$. "Micro-Grid" idea from 2011
here. What is the role of regulatory agencies (i.e. PURA)?
DEEP to hold hearing on proposed stormwater rule changes
Publication: The Day
By Judy Benson
Published November 29. 2014 4:00AM
Towns will be required to clean catch basins more frequently, sweep
roads twice a year to remove sand, salt and leaves, inspect storm drains
regularly to check for illegal discharges and sample to find and
address the most highly polluted stormwater, under changes proposed by
the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection...story in
full: http://www.theday.com/local/20141129/deep-to-hold-hearing-on-stormwater-rules Regional Planning role:
"Sustainable Communities" for Tri-State Region; amend the current
SWRPA Regional Plan of C&D to make sure
"sustainability" is explained and introduced into EVERY PART of the
In 2014, SWRPA holds Hazard and Resiliency Workshops - with the Nature Conservancy...and speaking of regions,SWRPA and HVCEO to its north have been merged as of January 1, 2015.
PURA delays decision on Connecticut utilities’ tree-cutting program CTNEWSJUNKIE
Luther Turmelle, New Haven Register
NEW BRITAIN >> State regulators will wait a week before issuing a
final decision on their review of plans by the state’s electric and
telecommunications companies to trim trees near utility poles.
The outcome of the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority’s
investigation into the tree-trimming practices of the utilities is
being watched closely by customers of the United Illuminating Co.,
where opposition to the company’s plan has been significant. PURA was
to issue its draft decision in the case Wednesday, but the ruling was
postponed until Jan. 29 because of what agency spokesman Dennis Schain
termed “technical and legal revisions that will require more time than
allowed for under the original deadline.”
UI isn’t the only utility whose customers would be affected by PURA
decision. But public opposition to its tree-trimming plans has been
high profile, with more than 100 people turning out at Hamden Middle
School Jan. 15 to protest the plans.
From the perspective of Joe Thomas, UI’s vice president of electric
system operations, the utility got the approval it needed to begin
implementing the first phase of its eight-year, $100 million
tree-trimming program from PURA last year as part of a rate case that
was before the regulatory agency.
“What we’re looking for in this latest case with PURA is confirmation
of our plan,” Thomas said. “But if PURA decides it wants to make
changes, then we’ll make them.”
Right now, UI is in the pilot phase of its tree-trimming program, with
work being done in selected areas of Hamden, Orange, Shelton and
Bridgeport. The utility’s full-scale rollout of the trimming won’t
begin until June.
Nancy Alderman of North Haven was among those who attended the
presentation of UI’s tree trimming plans in Hamden. She urged the
company and PURA officials to consider some sort of compromise.
“There’s no question there have been problems in the past with trees
knocking down electrical wires,” Alderman said. “In areas like schools,
hospitals and convalescent homes, the wires should be buried
underground. Elsewhere, there should be a respectful pruning of trees,
not a wholesale cutting down of them.”
A number of UI customers have sent letters to PURA that are included as
part of the agency’s review, saying that the utility’s plan is overly
aggressive and would reduce the value of their property if implemented.
Not everyone is opposed to increased tree-trimming efforts. In a letter
submitted to PURA last August, Manchester Director of Public Works Mark
Carlino voiced his support for Connecticut Light & Power’s enhanced
tree trimming program.
“More focused investigation of trees along utility lines and a more
comprehensive tree trimming and removal program will lessen the impact
that trees will have on overhead utility lines,” Carlino wrote in his
Industry Role and other utilities like public transit's Role PURA scheduling hearings soon, according to
as creatures of the state, in a manner of speaking, since
companies are give more freedom to operate than other private
businesses, what is the Legislature going to do to deal with them in
the next session?
(In terms of rates and other matters.)
NOTE: Co-Chair. of Energy & Technology Committee defeated for
by candidate with relations to wind energy firm...
First there was Aquarion, the former Bridgeport
Hydraulic, years ago now...then there is telecom, with Cablevision to
French company... New Haven’s English Station to be cleaned up under new UIL, Iberdrola deal
By Luther Turmelle, New Haven Register
Posted: 09/17/15, 9:04 AM EDT | Updated: 12 hrs ago
NEW HAVEN >> Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen and the
state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection announced
Thursday they have reached a deal in which UIL Holdings and Spanish
energy giant Iberdrola would pay for the full cost of cleaning up the
former English Station power plant site...The English Station site is
zoned for commercial or industrial use, Massicotte said, which means
that the cleanup must meet standards that would allow for such
activities to resume. But the threshold for cleanup of a polluted
industrial or commercial site is not as stringent...
No vortex, but power use again in
By: Jan Ellen Spiegel | January 22, 2014
It may not be a true polar vortex, but as far as the independent system
operator that runs the New England power grid is concerned – it might
as well be.
ISO New England, as it did during the true polar vortex two weeks ago,
has posted power alerts system-wide since last night. It essentially
means all-hands-on-deck. Power generators that feed the grid must be
available – no routine maintenance or testing allowed.
And as happened two weeks ago, natural gas prices are running high as
some of the natural gas is being diverted for heat. And once again the
region’s plants are burning a whole lot of oil and coal.
Oil is accounting for more than 20 percent of the generation Wednesday.
Normally it averages less than one percent. Coal has been running about
seven percent of the fuel mix. Normally it averages about three percent.
And as of early afternoon, power demand was running above the predicted
demand for the day, with peak power period still several hours away...
CHAPTER THREE: In the
neighborhood (s)...how many people equals a neighborhood in Weston?
- click for enlargement of SWRPA map. How does the political system work for or against
Can we rally other small towns to get action for change?
Should there be an over-arching concept behind what the
Can more be done by WCSC than it has done
Beyond the "shelter in place"
What more is left to do?
CHAPTER FOUR: "Foundations
for the Planet Weston" under development..."PPP" stands for people,
planet, profits. "Profits" on a local government scale, in our
THE PLANET WESTON:
Which is the correct map to use to discuss PPP - one that shows natural
resources or one that shows population density - or one that shows
centers of community activity? How about overlaying all of them
and seeing what we've got?
Speaking of the map - we are reminded of depth
to bedrock map from 1976 Dominski-Oakrock report. We are
reminded of this by comments in this story -
Weston already has an idea about depth to bedrock! Of course, it
was presented a long time ago, and it was in reference to septic
systems...but bedrock doesn't change unless there is...an earthquake.
WHAT'S NEEDED: A map or
series of maps showing "neighborhoods" and major communication
linkages coordinated with the emergency relief and services
centers and the command center. Explanation of types of
GOAL: Safety and security
POLICIES: Coordination of town and private actions
PROGRAMS: "Shelter in place" requirements planning for
short/medium and longer periods; comfort station organization;
provide power to town buildings; private planning ahead to find
& IMPLEMENTATION: Estimates of needs by type and scale of events,
cross-tabulated. Communication strategy.
R E S E A R C H
Using two issues of interest in CT through the years - the importance of
environmental conditions and the value and use of the land - "Eightmile River" and "Re-Evaluation" pages included here.
With New England administrator of EPA leading off, then CT Commissioner
of D.E.E.P. and then Deputy Commissioner who just returned after a very
long time away from CT DEP, this was a very,very long, all day Q&A with business
community who were checking out their bottom line...
Newspaper reports: Connecticut has a lead in meeting new EPA carbon emissions rule, Malloy says
By Judy Benson, The Day
Published August 03. 2015 4:00PM
Updated August 03. 2015 7:01PM
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, Attorney General George Jepsen and state
Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Robert
Klee applauded the Clean Power Plan released Monday by President Obama
and Environmental Protection Administrator Gina McCarthy, saying the
measure is a much-needed step toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions
contributing to climate change.
And comments in part from readers of The DAY: "It seems entirely
appropriate that the town not reimburse property holders for the lack of
a discount on flood insurance in a flood plain. There are consequences
to elections. If the elected officials do not administrate many
decisions properly it will negatively effect all of the
constituents..." As well as another remark noting the voluntary
nature of the program as well as the financial condition of FEMA itself.
CT MIRROR series on climate change with focus on shoreline railroad and AMTRAK - how do inland areas relate? PART ONE and PART TWO.
FROM IMPLEMENTER: Former CT Siting Council called "PURA,"
one of entities under "DEEP" (Department of
Energy and Environmental
Protection) - there is a new quasi public entity, we think, to deal with ports, as we read 1502, the IMPLEMENTER from 2015 Special Session:
Sec 1 -
CONNECTICUT PORT AUTHORITY:There is
hereby established and created a body politic and corporate, constituting a
public instrumentality and political subdivision of the state of Connecticut
established and created for the performance of an essential public and
governmental function, to be known as the Connecticut Port Authority. The
authority shall not be construed to be a department, institution or agency of
THANKS TO CT-N FOR COVERING THIS JUNE 23, 2015 PUBLIC HEARING in New Haven!
Our running notes are taken as the event played out on my computer. Video is archived at CT-N: http://ct-n.com/ondemand.asp?ID=11715
Please read our notesof highlights - or watch the vidoe for identifying the speakers reported on below.
"Public-Private Partnership" first speaker. She talks of risks for private sector in "P3" v. government design-build ("sniff-test"). Create "business case" analysis early. Federal funds for financing PPP. ("Big Dig" example of not-PPP project.) "TIFIA" bonds brought up first.
Finance guy second. Capital planning statewide - some are PPP
possibilities or not in re transportation. Cross-subsidizing
regions. Not just PPP for TIFIA bonds. How to innovate in
cash-strapped environment - next 5 yrs. will determine what the
infrastructure will look like in the future - long view v. immediate
Pedestrian and bicycle $$ and using Greater New Haven as a pilot,
Senator Looney. Bus transportation needed for cities. Also
traffic E-W too unpredictable, CTDOT not staffed enough to manage
Transfer of risk = PPP. Not free money.
Cost of collecting revenue: DOT funded by sales tax,
generally. Or tolling - not in CT yet! 45% of tolls in
London go to collecting tolls. Check Spain for model.
Europeans keep time shorter to PPP. Who gets priced off the
road? What did About Town get charged on the trip to NYC for the
Last speaker reads his stuff. JMO: Such a bad idea to to talk
about Puerto Rico project/transaction when the Governor of Puerto Rico
just announced they are going bust...
Lyle Wray asks why not Referenda? Like regional
referendum in our region - which would mean a CT Constitutional
amendment? Regional Entity change this year...next year change to
Rick Dunne - independent authority needed to give public confidence.
DOT union (SEIU) doesn't want consultants.
Truck lobbyist remarks points out constitutional amendment
well worded. "Money gobbled up" from transportation funds.
Public person points out better info on what transit
provides. Solar panels on train station??? Projects should
be prioritized. Why not have reversed lanes on I-95. State
Infrastructure Bank? Turnpike should charge to pay for
improvements. Lower the gas tax...??? If you have tolling.
Questions & Answers: How does the government control bad toll projections?
Undershooting on cost, under on use projections.
Robert Moses - 2 hrs 21 min.
If there is a chip there will be a hack.
Tolling pushes out business and poor - social equity of tolling.
Depreciated assest issue; when to and how much to pay to buy back toll road???
Tax exempt cost close to regular cost.
Train: Bridges via PPP? Design build maintenance w/o operate.
BACKGROUND TO 2015 CT MIRROR SERIES ABOVE
infrastructure upgrades unlikely even after second storm in 14 months
Jan Ellen Spiegel, CT MIRROR
November 19, 2012
Guilford -- On a damp, dreary post-Sandy, post-add-insult-to-injury
snowstorm afternoon, Guilford Town Planner George Kral surveyed the
intersection of state road 146, also called Leetes Island Road, and
Sachem's Head Road.
"It floods at extreme high tides under normal conditions and it floods
even more significantly during storms," he said, pointing to where 146
runs under a railroad bridge adjacent to a salt marsh. "During the
recent Sandy, that road was closed under that bridge for several days
because of the high water."
The high water there and elsewhere along the salt marshes that snake
through town meant a number of neighborhoods were cut off from the rest
of Guilford, leaving those who stayed in them at risk since first
responders likely would be unable to reach them.
Guilford, like many shoreline communities, is painfully aware of the
effects on infrastructure of increased incidents of severe weather
coupled with the sea level rise apparent in Long Island Sound. But it's
struggling with how to address recurring flooding and, more to the
point after two devastating storms, Irene and Sandy, in 14 months --
"It's one thing to plan for sea level rise, clearly a long-term
phenomenon," Kral said. "But increasing storm frequency, storm
phenomenon is a little bit hard to get your arms around. When it's
every few years, what do you do about it?"
Along the shoreline, Sandy threatened nearly a dozen electrical
substations with flooding, closed several airports and miles of road
because of high water, and risked power outages at a number of sewage
treatment plants and dozens of pumping stations, which could have had
catastrophic impacts on water quality in the Sound. But few, if any,
communities or state departments seem compelled to make immediate
widespread retrofits to infrastructure to prevent a recurrence in the
"There's no reason to react in a panic because of storms that we had,"
said Robert Smuts, New Haven's chief administrative officer and
director of emergency management. "Reacting in a panic is just as
ridiculous a reaction as pretending that the problem didn't exist
That said, New Haven does plan to work with United Illuminating to
upgrade the Mill River Substation, which had to be pumped out during
Sandy. But the two areas that habitually flood, and did so in both
Irene and Sandy -- the east shore area around Tweed Airport and the
Long Wharf section from the Sound all the way to Union Station and its
large rail yards -- will have to wait their turns.
"The list of the projects on my desk from three weeks ago is pretty
similar to the list on my desk now," Smuts said.
Money is the biggest issue. The Department of Transportation has been
brutally honest that its capital budget is geared to critical repair
and upgrade needs, though climate change is beginning to be factored
into how they are done. But for roads like Route 146, which floods in
many places in Branford as well as Guilford, the DOT does not have the
money to raise problematic sections, let alone the whole road.
"There is simply not enough to chase all the hardening that might be
necessary for these larger storms," said Tom Harley, DOT's chief
engineer, using terminology that refers to the resilience of structures.
And that means even at Sikorsky Airport, which was inundated during
Sandy, an ongoing project to redo the road around it will take
recurring flooding into consideration, but the airport itself will
continue to suffer.
"Do I have x-millions of dollars to take the whole airport and bring it
up 5 feet? Not likely," Harley said. "Are we simply going to fix the
runways over the next 30 years every time water comes up? Yeah --
probably that's all I can do."
At the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, Commissioner
Dan Esty said there will be an effort to strenghthen or otherwise
retrofit the electric grid components and sewage treatment plants that
are considered the most vulnerable. But most everything else will focus
on future projects.
"When we finance the upgrade of a sewage treatment plant we are moving
the electronics that manage that infrastructure to a second-story
location," Esty said. "When we fund a new sewage treatment plant as we
have for Mattabassett, it is going to include elements of hardening in
terms of what the design standards are.
"The truth is this involves billions of dollars of infrastructure, and
you can't simply say we're going to redo it in a year or two."
The Nature Conservancy, through its mapping tool called Coastal
Resilience -- which charts the impacts from sea level rise and/or
storms -- predicts that if a Category 3 storm similar to the Hurricane
of 1938 were to occur now in Connecticut, it would flood 645 miles of
roads, 131 miles of railroad track, five rail stations, 10 airports and
13 wastewater treatment plants.
Adam Whelchel, the director of science for the Conservancy in
Connecticut, said the kinds of infrastructure projects that would
address climate issues like these can take decades of planning and
construction, which begs the question of what, if anything, to do now.
"It's a really fair question," he said. "One of the things working
against us in terms of coming up with something meaningful for
infrastructure, we are all these municipalities. If we're going to
solve this, it has to be collectively."
And more than a few people think the state has to take the lead role.
But that's tricky, said Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, D-Westport, a member
of the Energy and Transportation committees and a member of the
Shoreline Preservation Task Force, created after Irene to look at a
range of climate change issues along the Sound.
"So much of what we've learned is that action needs to take place on a
municipal level," he said. "It's a lot to ask many municipalities to
make these kind of investments."
On the other hand, he said, state-ordered infrastructure and other
climate-related work "almost comes across as a giant unfunded mandate.
"I think if we set up public-private partnerships, which seem to be
part of the new mantra going forward whereby the onus is not totally on
the government, we can find ways to work collaboratively."
But he and others cautioned against hasty actions.
"We don't want to make investments in the short term that will be
jeopardized over a medium or longer term," said Kral, who in Guilford
also faces the prospect that unchecked flooding threatens to turn his
town's salt marshes into standing water, hampering their ability to do
what salt marshes are supposed to do -- act as sponges and barriers
There is also the matter of a small waterside substation that could be
in jeopardy. And with all properties on septic systems, increased
flooding raises the specter of untreated sewage leaching into the
Sound. The train station and most track areas seem safe, Kral said, but
flooding could mean many people couldn't actually get to the station.
"The thing is that sea level rise and flooding and related issues are
all so very complex, we don't want to do something in an area where we
haven't done enough research," said Rep. James Albis, D-East Haven, who
created and heads the Shoreline Preservation Task Force and whose
district, slammed by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, sustained less
damage during Sandy. "We want to take a holistic and pragmatic approach
that doesn't cause more harm in the future."
Whatever the solution, many pointed out that officials of all sorts
should not let the crisis that was Sandy go to waste.
"There is an opportunity while this is fresh in people's minds to start
paying greater attention to it," said Steve Cohen, executive director
of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. And that also means
exploring ways for taxpayers to pay for the infrastructure upgrades
that will keep them from losing power and mobility in the next big
"But amnesia is one of the main characteristics of politics," he said.
"And it's important for the political leadership to take advantage of
this teachable moment because it's not going to last for very long."
Coasts Rebuild and U.S. Pays, Repeatedly, the Critics Ask Why
By JUSTIN GILLIS and FELICITY BARRINGER, NYTIMES
November 18, 2012
DAUPHIN ISLAND, Ala. — Even in the off season, the pastel beach
houses lining a skinny strip of sand here are a testament to the good
life. They are also a monument to the generosity of the federal
The western end of this Gulf Coast island has proved to be one of the
most hazardous places in the country for waterfront property. Since
1979, nearly a dozen hurricanes and large storms have rolled in and
knocked down houses, chewed up sewers and water pipes and hurled sand
onto the roads. Yet time and again, checks from Washington have
allowed the town to put itself back together.
Across the nation, tens of billions of tax dollars have been spent on
subsidizing coastal reconstruction in the aftermath of storms, usually
with little consideration of whether it actually makes sense to keep
rebuilding in disaster-prone areas. If history is any guide, a large
fraction of the federal money allotted to New York, New Jersey and
other states recovering from Hurricane Sandy — an amount that could
exceed $30 billion — will be used the same way.
Tax money will go toward putting things back as they were, essentially
duplicating the vulnerability that existed before the hurricane...
Please go to the NYTIMES archives for the story in full.
SOURCES ON UNDERGROUNDING AND CT HISTORY: "ABOUT TOWN" HAS BEEN
WATCHING FOR A REALLY LONG TIME (PRE
This spectacular night-time view of Earth is called Black Marble.
It has been assembled from a series of cloud-free images acquired by
one of the most capable satellites in the sky today - the Suomi
The platform was launched by the US last year, principally to deliver
critical meteorological data. The Black Marble dataset shows off
of Suomi's key innovations: the low-light sensitivity of its VIIRS
instrument.VIIRS (Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite) can
discern a range of phenomena of interest to weather forecasters -
cloud, snow, fog, etc - even when the satellite is on the dark side of
Most of the time, all VIIRS needs to do its work is some illumination
from the Moon. But if that is not available, the instrument can still
detect features down below just from the nocturnal glow of the
And, of course, just as this Black Marble rendition demonstrates, VIIRS
is also very good at capturing the lights of our cities. The new
imagery was unveiled here at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall
Meeting, the largest annual gathering of Earth scientists. Data
Suomi - a joint Nasa and National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration (NOAA) satellite - is certain to become a mainstay of
future presentations at this conference...
Root cause: Tree Board aims to revive role, programs
Liotta, Westport News
Updated 9:05 am, Saturday, February 16, 2013
Tree Board, hoping to plant the seeds of renewal for its role in town
government, is looking for help.
"We're trying to revitalize the Tree Board," Pamela Klomberg, the
chairwoman of the board, which now has only three members, said at
Friday's meeting of the panel.
Klomberg currently serves on a state task force appointed by Gov.
Dannel Malloy, the purpose of which she said "is to develop templates
for municipalities to manage their urban forests."
Following the severe storms of the last few years, questions of tree
liability and management have prompted state officials to consider
options and ideas about maintaining both forested lands and trees in
developed areas, many of which may be implemented by local governments.
"We represent a municipality that is not yet, doesn't yet, have a
cohesive urban forest management plan," Klomberg said.
"Are these things the town wants?" she said. "We don't know, but I
think that our task is to suggest and recommend best practices."
Westport now allocates enough funding to pay for a tree warden's
services only one day a week. Money is also limited for the monitoring,
removal, planting, maintenance and pruning of trees. First Selectman
Gordon Joseloff's proposed budget for 2013-14, however, includes a
$170,000 to create a full-time tree warden position and to increase the
town's overall tree work.
The two other board members -- Judy James and Tracey Hammer -- are
focusing on websites and social media to spread the word about the
board and its mission.
"It's an opportunity to get our story out -- what we're doing, engage
participation," Klomberg said. "And we have a partner that is willing
to help us do this (computer) work."
Klomberg said volunteers are needed for a variety of tasks, including
networking, outreach, education and, potentially, political action.
"We have been a town historically of removal," said John Broadbin,
deputy director of the Department of Public Works, "with a one day per
week part time tree warden.
He said his department wants additional funds for more tree cutting,
stump grinding, replanting and pruning.
Klomberg said she is "very hopeful" the Board of Finance will approve
the preliminary budget, with the additional money for tree work and
personnel, at its March 6 meeting.
Klomberg would also like to see the Westport Tree Board get involved
with a May tree festival in Norwalk.
"Norwalk has a number of organizations that collaborate with the
Department of Public Works in their urban forest initiatives," she
said. "I attended last year and was really impressed with the
exhibitors and opportunities for public education."
This year, she said, Norwalk is inviting surrounding towns to
participate in the free event.
"Westport has the opportunity to take a table ... and we can do
whatever we like with that table," Klomberg said. "I think it's a
really great opportunity for us to engage the public and educate
By Susan Wolf on November 15, 2012 - adapted for Weston
New England would not be New England without its trees,
nor would Weston be the town it is today if its landscape were only
sparsely dotted by trees.
Trees are not the villains in the latest round of power outages
besieging the area — blame Mother Nature for that. They do, however,
need to be managed better.
But it’s not just the town — nor just the state, the federal
government, nor CL&P — that needs to do the managing. There needs
to be an appropriate balance among those responsible for trees in the
The town only deals with trees on its property; CL&P takes care of
tree trimming and cutting with regard to its utility lines and
residents are responsible for the trees on their properties.
No one wants another layer of bureaucracy when it comes to trees, but a
program needs to be developed — and one was talked about in the state
legislature last year — to encourage property owners to pay more
attention to trees on their property, especially those near their homes
and adjacent to town or state roadways. The town can verbalize an
over-arching philosophy on tree management, but it’s individual
residents who will make the most difference by doing something about it.
If CL&P wants to cut down or trim a tree on private property and
the homeowner resists, who should be responsible for the damage caused
if the tree or its limbs fall on electric wires? Or on a car? Or a
passing pedestrian or bicycle rider?
Homeowners, like the town and CL&P, have a responsibility to have a
licensed arborist inspect suspect trees, and to take care of them, even
if it means paying to cut them down or trim them.
The town highway department and CL&P have tree management plans,
but more is needed. Some municipalities actually have a plan in place
that would help the town and its property owners decide what kinds of
trees are better suited near a roadside, or under a power line or near
a home. So when a tree dies or is damaged by disease or wind, there is
a resource in place to help decide what should be planted in its place.
To cut down trees willy nilly because they are under a power line or
near a road seems to go too far. Trees are beautiful and have many
advantages. Keeping these trees healthy and replacing them with more
appropriate trees when needed just makes more sense.
Putting all power lines underground, as some have proposed, may be a
partial solution years down the road, but it is unrealistic to think
this would happen in the near future. There is merit to looking to more
undergrounding as new lines are needed or as lines are being replaced —
but even underground cables do not ensure no power outages.
There is only so much that can be done to catch trees before they or
their limbs fall. High winds and storms are not going away, but better
preparations can be made, not only from the standpoint of managing
trees but also from the standpoint of people being better prepared when
there are outages.
Tree debris: Weston deals with familiar post-storm dilemma
By Kimberly Donnelly on November 15, 2012
A freak warm-weather storm with hurricane-force winds followed
by an early fall snowstorm; blocked roads and extended power outages;
comfort stations, charging stations, and more than a week of school
cancellations. As Yogi Berra said, it’s déjà vu all over
Now that the immediate crisis has passed in Weston — roads
are clear, electricity, heat, water, phones, Internet and cable are
restored, snow is melted, school is back in session — Westonites are
once again dealing with a familiar aftermath to the storm damage: trees.
“Unfortunately, the same thing that makes Weston beautiful
and bucolic — the reason many of us want to live here — is also what
causes us such problems,” said First Selectman Gayle Weinstein.
Superstorm Sandy took down thousands of branches and trees
when it slammed into the northeastern seaboard and plowed its way
through Weston. There were more than 220 road blockages caused by
felled trees, and hundreds more cases of property damage. And, of
course, there was again the problem of trees tangled in utility wires.
But unlike last year, this year blame for power outages and
road closures couldn’t necessarily be placed on trees that were “too
close” to power lines, or those that were weighted down by a
combination of leaves and snow.
Sean McNamara, neighboring Redding’s tree warden (Weston has
yet to fill its tree warden position), said the difference between
Sandy and the October snowstorm in 2011 was the type of trees that fell.
Most of the damage from Sandy was to evergreen trees (spruce
and pine), he said. “They took the brunt of the storm. Last year, it
was oak trees.”
Oak trees tend to hold on to leaves longer into the season,
so last year when it snowed in October, the weight brought down trees,
“This year, we had the hurricane and the leaves blew off with
the wind, but the wind caused evergreens to fall because they are
resisting the wind and those are the types that came down with this
hurricane,” he said.
This October was also a wet one, which is why a lot of trees
were uprooted, Mr. McNamara said.
First Selectman Weinstein was on site with tree crews at
scores of downed tree locations across town the past few weeks. What
she noticed was that most of what fell were tall, healthy pine trees.
Also notable was how wide but shallow the root systems were
on many of the downed pine trees. “Part of it, I have heard, is in
Weston there is so much rock ledge that’s relatively close to the
surface, so the trees can’t be rooted as deeply as they might
otherwise,” Ms. Weinstein said.
As aggressive as the town, the state, and Connecticut Light
& Power (CL&P) have been the last year in trimming trees near
power lines and roads, Ms. Weinstein said with Sandy, it didn’t really
matter. Much of the damage was caused by trees that were healthy and
not necessarily close to power lines or houses.
Tree maintenance efforts focus on trying to prevent “average
outages,” which most often are caused by squirrels in transformers or
branches knocking into power lines, she said. “You can’t remove every
tree within 50 feet” of power lines, roads or houses, or there would be
no trees left in town, she said.
As they did in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene and the
October nor’easter in 2011, Westonites post-Sandy are again left
asking, Who is responsible for cleaning up the mess left by Mother
What residents discovered last year still holds true:
Determining just whose property a given tree is on — and therefore who
is responsible for cleaning it up if it falls — is not as cut and dried
as it might seem.
Roads (other than state or private roads) are obviously town
property. But so is an area on the side of the road — the town
right-of-way — along the edge of what is usually someone’s yard.
But according to John Conte, the town engineer, there is no
set measurement used to determine the town right-of-way for every road
in town, such as a certain number of feet from the center line or from
the edge of the pavement. Instead, the town relies on survey maps on
file; anything within the private property line is the landowner’s
responsibility; anything on the other side of the line is the town’s.
But many trees and all power lines lie within CL&P
easements, which are conveyed to CL&P by the state legislature.
Regardless of where a tree trunk is rooted, once branches encroach on
CL&P easements — once they get close to the wires — they become the
jurisdiction of CL&P and neither the town nor private property
owners may do tree work in those areas.
Who cleans it up?
When it comes to trees that do come down, several scenarios
• A tree is on town property and falls on town property. The
town cleans it up.
• A tree is on town property and it falls on both town
property and private property. The town clears up to the town/private
property line. The property owner is responsible for anything that
lands on his property. Sometimes, the town will clear town trees that
land on private property, although it is not obligated to do so.
• A tree is on private property and it falls on private
property. It is the property owner’s responsibility.
• A tree is on private property and falls on both private and
town property. The town clears only what is on town property; the land
owner is responsible for the rest.
• A tree is on private property and falls causing damage or
injuries. The property owner is liable for damage.
• A tree is on town property and falls causing damage or
injuries. The town is liable for damage.
Residents are reminded not to leave branches and other debris
from their property on the side of the road — the town will not be
picking it up.
The town contracted with a company to pick up its tree debris
from roadsides, and the state did the same along the state roads that
run through town (routes 57 and 53).
Residents, however, are responsible for removing their own
tree debris. Thanks to temporary authorization from the state
Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), the town
transfer station accepted debris for no charge for two and a half weeks
after the storm, until yesterday, Nov. 14.
Now, however, residents must either store debris on their own
property or have it removed privately.
Hersam Acorn reporter Kaitlin Bradshaw contributed to
BACKGROUND TO 2015 CT MIRROR SERIES ABOVE Coastal management legislation
balances environmental concerns with property rights
Jan Ellen Spiegel, CT MIRROR
May 9, 2012
In Connecticut's post-storms legislative world, most of the focus has
been on how to make sure power outages like the ones the state suffered
in August and October never happen again.
But for communities along the shoreline, where some buildings are still
in disrepair, seawalls remain crumpled and some landscapes were altered
permanently by Tropical Storm Irene, how quickly the lights come back
on may be secondary when homes and businesses are flooded or even
destroyed, and beachfront property is washed away. Legislation to
protect the shoreline from such ravages of future storms, as well as
the compounding impact of sea level rise, has passed the General
While it stops far short of a list of mandates, it does represent a
sea-change -- so to speak -- in what the state considers necessary to
manage the shoreline in light of a changing environment and, generally,
more concern about it. For the first time in Connecticut, sea
level rise is specifically mentioned among the criteria for coastal
planning, and it is to be considered in the revision later this year to
the state's Plan of Conservation and Development.
"I think the fact that sea level rise is being mentioned in statute is
an important first step," said Rep. James Albis, D-East Haven, whose
community was especially hard-hit, and who has taken a leading role in
shoreline issues, including chairing the recently created Shoreline
Preservation Task Force.
The legislation takes another bold philosophical step in specifically
calling for minimizing "shoreline armoring." In other words -- seawalls.
The case against seawalls
After Irene, local, state and federal officials repeatedly called for
more seawalls to better protect shoreline property. At the same time,
scientists largely warned against such efforts. Many shoreline geology
experts noted that seawalls typically magnify wave action, causing
"scouring," a digging out of areas beneath walls, which makes the waves
even bigger, causing even more erosion. And they noted that sea level
rise would make those waves bigger still.
The legislation spells out specific "feasible, less environmentally
damaging alternatives" to classic shoreline armoring. Those listed
include moving inhabited structures farther from the water, raising
them, restoring or creating dunes and employing any of a number of
techniques under the category of "living shorelines."
That could include tidal wetland vegetation, salt marsh restoration,
sand fill and other types of natural means to disperse or absorb water.
It's a concept supporters say has proven successful in the Chesapeake
Bay and elsewhere. Communities are not forced to approve such
methods, but the legislation essentially enables them to if they so
"It's a proactive offensive approach rather than the defense armoring,"
Albis said. "We want to make sure more people are aware of different
"We're really doing some revolutionary stuff here."
But it took a somewhat Herculean bipartisan effort to get to that
point. Several bills were incorporated into the final version;
most notably two -- one from the House, one from the Senate -- that
were about as polarizing as they come.
A Republican-backed bill was blasted by environmentalists who felt it
would force communities to approve virtually all armoring proposals
like seawalls. And environmentalists backed another that incensed more
than a few legislators and others with this language:
encourage a fair and orderly legal process to foster strategic retreat
of property ownership, over a period of several decades, for coastal
lands that have a likelihood of being lost due to erosion and coastal
lands that contain structures that are subject to repetitive damage."
Intense negotiations resulted in an almost entirely new bill with a
first line that asserts "the rights of private property owners."
"I think it's a lot better bill in many regards," said Sen. Len Fasano,
a Republican who not only represents East Haven, but also owns a house
and a beach club there; the latter sustained serious damage in Irene.
He had backed the Republican bill.
"This opens it up to whole new ways to protect the shoreline; it's kind
of cool," said Fasano who admitted he was intrigued by some of the
living shoreline techniques for his own property. "I'm definitely going
take a look at it."
Most credit Fasano and David Sutherland, director of government
relations for the Connecticut office of the Nature Conservancy, with
forging the compromise, and each man has nothing but accolades for the
other now. But Sutherland chose his words carefully and disputed
that his group's goals may have fallen short. "Not at this point," he
said. "We don't live in a pure ecological world. We live in a world
with a lot of different factors we need to take into account.
"It was a compromise," he said. "The bill is an accurate reflection and
a very appropriate bill for where we're all at right now."
Among its other critical points, the legislation redefines the "high
tide line" as a "coastal jurisdiction line" that is more predictable
than the actual tide line. The Department of Energy and Environmental
Protection retains jurisdiction for structures on the water side of it.
Municipalities oversee those on the land side.
In both cases, if an application for a flood or erosion control
structure is denied, the legislation would now require DEEP or the
local government to provide the applicant with less environmentally
damaging alternatives to consider.
Under current law, seawall building is restricted to the replacement of
existing ones and new ones around critical infrastructure and inhabited
structures built before 1980. Those categories are expanded in the
legislation to include inhabited structures built as recently as 1995
and cemeteries. The bill also includes establishment of a pilot
program to explore innovative approaches to coastal management, calls
for a shoreline management study and authorizes academic institutions
to develop science and engineering programs to support coastal
At this point there are no full-throated objections to the legislation.
The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities had opposed earlier
versions that it thought tied the hands of local government.
"It certainly has been modified, and we appreciate the efforts made,"
said Kachina Walsh-Weaver, CCM's senior legislative associate, who said
that officially CCM does not support the legislation. "Our basic
concerns with the bill is how it will play out over time."
The Connecticut Marine Trades Association, which represents about 300
marinas and boatyards, had also been concerned about earlier versions,
and specifically the private property threat.
"I'm cautiously optimistic with changes that have been made," said
Grant Westerson, the association president. "Am I in love with it? No.
But enough changes have been made in the bill that we can deal with it."
Westerson and others noted that the new shoreline task force, as well
as the recently created Long Island Sound Caucus, would provide
opportunities to work on many thorny coastal management issues in a way
that complements the legislation.
"This bill came out so fast," he said. "Why are we doing this now?
We've got a task force that's been appointed. Let them do their job and
see what comes out."
Which is exactly what Albis intends to do, eventually picking up the
difficult issue of whether to continue to rebuild in flood-prone areas.
"While there is a lot of work to do, I'm happy that the task force has
time to look at other solutions," he said. "The legislation provides a