Himes, residents discuss flood concerns
Published 1:11 am, Thursday, April 1, 2010
The problem is that no one agency can afford the $120 million for the mediation work, he said.
"We're feeling very alone," Macleod said.
He was preaching to the choir. Several dozen residents from waterlogged neighborhoods throughout the county attended U.S. Rep. Jim Himes' flooding forum looking for a sympathetic ear but mostly monetary relief.
"The state's broke" and there are too many strings attached to federal dollars, said Chris Noe of Darien.
Although the forum, also attended by local and state emergency management officials, was held two weeks after a storm caused severe damage in lower Fairfield County, the discussion was mainly focused on ongoing flooding concerns.
"Since we don't have the county government, (I am) the only elected official that has by nature a regional perspective on this stuff," said Himes, D-Greenwich. "At the end of the day flooding is fundamentally a regional problem, so I'm going to try to lead on this issue."
Himes said he has requested $5 million in the federal budget for 10 projects.
Nine are local flood control efforts. The 10th is a request for the Army Corps of Engineers to conduct a regional survey of flood control issues "that holistically evaluates rivers and streams to know where and the severity of flood hazards."
Attendees sought to draw Himes' attention to a variety of needs.
Norwalk resident Galen Wells, with Friends of the Five Mile River, said that waterway needs dredging to prevent ongoing flooding into neighboring properties.
"The Five Mile River is really a storm drain," Wells said.
Another audience member said attention should be paid to Darien's Gorham's Pond.
"Sixty percent of the flooding from all the flood waters in Darien flow and end up in Gorham's Pond," he said. "You don't see homes being damaged but what you're seeing is an erosion."
Although the forum was about flooding, critics' of Himes' recent vote in favor of federal health-care reform found opportunities to work the issue into the conversation.
Bonnie Dudley, a former Darien resident who moved to the Rowayton section of Norwalk, said "if we keep spending at the federal level like you voted on this weekend for health care . . . who's going to fix our infrastructure?"
Her comments drew some applause as well as a few groans.
"We're here for flooding," one woman said.
Himes acknowledged budgets at the local, state and federal level are all constrained, but added: "We're not here to talk about health care. I did 12 of those meetings."
Himes took some time on his way from the library to talk to a handful of health reform critics standing outside and briefly debate with them the merits of the bill.
Diane Lauricella of Norwalk and Peter Alexander of Greenwich suggested area communities think outside of the box when it comes to flood and erosion control, rather than relying solely on costly engineering estimates.
Lauricella said concepts like low-impact developments and sustainable, green designs "are more than just an `eco nut' fantasy. They work in reducing floodwater that dumps into our streams and ponds but reduce costs to homeowners and towns."
After the forum, Himes agreed there is a need for more creative, less-costly solutions.
"No level of government is going to have a lot of extra money sloshing around," he said. "Creative ways to make big problems smaller will be really important."
State Rep. Carlo Leone, D-Stamford, said the city, working with Darien, has had some success in studying ways to improve flooding issues involving Holly Pond. But he said the estimated work will cost $18 million so there is a need to cut back and find less-expensive, non-manmade solutions.
As the event wrapped up, Rick Wysocki of Westport, whose beachfront home has had flooding problems, again brought up the federal debt.
"I don't expect anybody to bail me out because I made a conscious decision to live on the water and benefit from that 95 percent of the time," he said. "Everybody in this room has great ideas, (but) anybody in this room who thinks we can continue to look to the federal government to help us out is dreaming. They're sucking the money out of this state and adding debt."
But Wysocki told Himes: "I think you're a great guy for having all of these town hall meetings."