Conn. Communities Pressured to Repair Flood Control Systems

January 10, 2007

Federal scrutiny of levees around the country increased after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, prompting several community in Connecticut to begin repairs on their flood control infrastructure.

The Army Corps of Engineers in November told state and local officials that a change in its review policy meant four of the state’s 11 federally built levee systems — Hartford, East Hartford, Torrington and Waterbury — were in danger of being decertified by the end of 2006 if deficiencies were not remedied.

The policy change carried ripple effects: Property owners who didn’t need flood insurance before a levee’s decertification would probably need it afterward.

“What changed is the fact that they’re actually pulling that trigger, or posturing to pull that trigger,” said Art Christian, a state civil engineer involved in the process.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell, in a letter, urged the Corps to “change course” and recognize the progress that was being made to address the levees.

The Corps has since backed off on its deadline, but motivated communities to get moving on repairs.

Different levee systems have different problems, and the four in question have had issues with overgrown vegetation or animal burrows that weakened them.

The city of Hartford, for example, already has completed $5 million in repairs and Mayor Eddie Perez plans to ask the state for $30 million for his levees and their mechanical infrastructure.

Dennis Schain, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection, said the state expects to hear from the Corps by the end of January that will offer a plan for improvement does not include decertification.

“The good news is that there’s a happy ending in that the issue surfaces, gets more attention, but, in the end, there’s going to be an orderly process for planning and getting the work done,” Schain said.

Larry Rosenberg, a Corps spokesman, said the change in levee review was about bringing local authorities into the fold.

“What we tried to do is something that wasn’t done prior to Katrina _ make sure that the local authorities had a complete understanding of what was happening,” Rosenberg said.


Information from: The Hartford Courant,

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