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Fairfield considers raising Pine Creek Dike

Pine Creek beach area following Sandy
Pine Creek beach area following Sandy
$2.16 million project would elevate the existing dike by three feet

The Town of Fairfield is considering a $2.16 million project to raise the elevation of the Pine Creek dike to better fortify the neighborhood for future storms and flooding following the effects of Superstorm Sandy in October 2012.

Last month, project managers discussed raising the dike by approximately 3 feet at a Flood & Erosion Control board meeting. Doing so would provide the Pine Creek neighborhood protection from 100-year-storms on the south side of the creek, and 100-year stillwater elevation on the east side, according to a presentation made by Public Works Director Joseph Michelangelo and Jonathan Richer of the engineering firm Tighe & Bond, Inc.

As a resident of the Pine Creek neighborhood, I believe the protection that elevating the dike can provide is valuable – especially to those who experienced damaging flooding from previous storms. But, the project would alter residents’ view, aesthetics and usability of property located on the dike.

My thoughts were echoed by fellow residents, whose other concerns include whether elevating the dike would mean they would be allowed an exemption to house height restrictions, and whether the project would impact flood insurance rates.

The suggestion to raise the dike by 3 feet falls shy of the Federal Emergency Management Administration’s (FEMA) standards of a 17-foot elevation, which would mean raising the existing dike by 4.5 feet on the south side and 7.5 feet on the east side.

Project managers, who said they felt raising the dike to meet FEMA’s criteria would be too much of a change for residents, felt the proposal to raise the dike 3 feet would be an important improvement towards area safety even though there would be no guarantee that flood insurance rates would be reduced.

While the project would total approximately $2.16 million, federal funding is available and Fairfield’s estimated share of the cost would be close to $600,000.

Because the project is still in the preliminary stages of planning, I think it would be reasonable to look at other alternatives, like a breakwater in the Long Island Sound or an extension of a jetty off the end of Fairfield Beach Road. Whatever is decided should provide a balance between additional flood protection and existing land use.

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