STONINGTON — Mystic is situated in the middle of a “water sandwich.”
That’s how students from the Conway School described Mystic village’s predicament during the “Coastal Resilience Solutions for Downtown Mystic” community conversation held at the Hoxie Fire Department Wednesday.
“The Northeast has seen a 71 percent increase in rainfall over the last 100 years accompanied by a foot of sea level rise during that period, which is 50 percent greater than the national average,” said Greta Moore, a graduate student in the Sustainable Landscape Planning and Design at the Conway School in Northampton, Mass. “That creates a water sandwich — you have water coming in from the sea level rise and you have water inundating the area from these heavy rain events.”
Moore and four other Conway graduate students had come to Mystic to begin their project planning shoreline and inland resilience measures for the area using green infrastructure methods. They were also there to listen to the 50 residents who came to share their concerns and observations about the village’s vulnerabilities.
The students' project is based on recommendations from the Stonington Coastal Resilience Plan, which was completed in 2017 by Arup, an engineering firm with offices in Boston, and paid for with a grant from the Connecticut Department of Housing. The plan’s cost-benefit analysis for Mystic showed $610 million in property values from 2017 to 2050 to be at risk, which did not include discontinuity of services, or social, economic and environmental impacts.
Graduate student Martha Abbott told the attendees her group was in the process of studying maps of the area’s flood plain, stormwater infrastructure, impervious surfaces and building locations to look for patterns and to track where the stormwater is going.
“You can begin to see that in these areas that are at high risk of flooding, there’s also a high risk of buildings being damaged and there’s no place for the water to go,” she said.
After showing pictures of green infrastructure methods designed to manage stormwater, such as bioswale rain gardens, permeable paving materials and infiltration parks, the students directed residents to group activities that included marking maps to show areas of flooding.
Residents also shared specific areas of concern, including Mystic Seaport, Church Street near St. Patrick and Mystic Congregational churches, the Seaport Marine area around Washington Street and the Masons Island causeway. Residents also spoke of the vulnerability of the area’s utilities, roads, sewer treatment plant and outdated drainage infrastructure.
In the next phase of the project, the Conway students will separate into two teams with one focusing on stormwater solutions for inland areas and the other looking at shoreline interventions.
“As I said about that 'water sandwich,' we’re coming from this two-fold approach of what can we do on the shoreline and what can we do inland,” said Moore. “Tonight we don’t have any designs or answers just yet, we’re just the students looking to learn from all of you.”
After doing more research and incorporating residents’ ideas into the project, the students will return for another community conversation in about eight weeks to present their ideas and listen to residents’ feedback.
The students’ final concepts will be presented to the town in book form.
The Conway School’s project was sponsored by a grant from the Nature Conservancy.
Residents may provide input to the Conway School project through a questionnaire available at www.carpen19.wixsite.com/mysticinterventions.