The Day – DEEP hosts climate change forum in New London and Groton
The State Department for Energy and Environmental Protection focused on New London and Groton on Monday evening in a virtual workshop designed to foster a local conversation on climate change.
Guests from the region discussed among themselves and with DEEP moderators solutions to the city’s and region’s environmental issues related to climate change.
The first panel, moderated by Sharmaine Gregor, a New London resident, looked at community climate solutions. New London Public Utilities Director Joseph Lanzafame focused on stormwater management, noting that his work is about climate change mitigation rather than prevention.
“I’m sure you’ve all noticed that we are getting more severe storms lately where we get heavy rainfall,” Lanzafame said. New London recorded 5 inches of rain in an hour during Hurricane Ida and 8 inches in three to four hours, Lanzafame continued. He detailed the efforts of the New London Stormwater Authority to promote localized mitigation measures and to pay special attention to areas most prone to flooding.
Lanzafame said municipalities need to monitor physical infrastructure – pipes, catchment basins, pumping stations, etc. – and continue to look for ways to improve the system.
Groton Town Economic Development Specialist Cierra Patrick spoke about Groton’s efforts on the town’s community resilience plan. She said each department in the city is reflecting on its role in tackling climate change and dealing with natural and man-made disasters. The city as a whole is concerned about rising sea levels, with a forecast for it to rise 20 inches by 2050, she said.
“Groton Utilities is focused on the infrastructure of how things are designed, on improvements to be made, and police and firefighters (departments are) much more interested in the response,” said Patrick. “How do we react? In what ways can we improve these response times? “
He said the effort highlights different collaborations as well as different solutions the community can use to prepare for climate change.
Patrick said it was important for the city to tackle the resilience of the coastal community, which is bordered by the Thames and Long Island Sound and where more than 75% of the land is near water. The city is home to large employers, including Electric Boat and Pfizer, as well as around 10,000 residents, and is home to the headquarters of Groton Utilities, a utility.
Lanzafame said community development policies can control flooding and use smart stormwater management plans.
“In urbanized areas you have a lot of problems, you have nowhere to go for water,” he said. “We like to work site by site and demand that when a development takes place you do not increase the amount of stormwater generated by your site. “
He said he is a proponent of “storm water ponds, underground chambers, things that hold water so that when the storm is gone, you can slowly release that water.”
Lanzafame and Patrick both agreed that hyperlocal resilience plans are essential to improve the community’s chances of dealing with the effects of climate change. Lanzafame said local communities are the first place local officials should go to determine how to improve local environmental issues.
Jennifer Muggeo, deputy director of the Ledge Light Health District, said climate change is deeply linked to public health. For example, she said that there is an increase in vector-borne diseases with an increase in storms, and that exaggerated asthma is associated with air quality. She and her colleague Ronna Stuller, chair of the New London Green Town Committee, recognized the inequalities in how climate change affects people differently based on race and class.
“Who can afford to evacuate when a storm hits?” Muggeo asked. “Who gets the resources that are directed by the policy to the owners when 60% of a community rents their living space? Who can afford to recover after their evacuation? health until we change. “
Muggeo drew similarities between environmental and health outcomes by saying that for too long the two have been measured by personal choices when social determinants and big business bear greater blame.
A DEEP resource panel included Kaitlyn Cyr of DEEP’s Office of Energy, Technology and Policy, DEEP Urban Forestry Coordinator Danica Doroski and Nicole Lugli of DEEP Planning.
Doroski, Cyr and Lugli highlighted funding opportunities for climate-related projects, some of which can be found online at
https://portal.ct.gov/DEEP-urban-forestry-grants, https://energizect.com/your-town/community-partnership and https://portal.ct.gov/DEEP/Open-Space/ Open space.
DEEP plans to build on Monday’s workshop, held in partnership with the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut, with in-person focus groups in Groton on Wednesday and in New London on Thursday.