Scoping of Dredge Material Islands and Wetlands for Green Infrastructure Resiliency Projects Along the Connecticut Shoreline in Fairfield and New Haven Counties

About the Project

Project Summary

Studies show that wetland habitats act as natural buffers against waves and powerful storm surges. With funds from the Connecticut Department of Housing CDBG-DR Sandy Recovery Program, this project aims to determine the feasibility of the process of utilizing dredge materials to construct artificial marshes and islands to decrease erosion and improve drainage. This project will result in a feasibility assessment, design parameters, a regulatory framework, and an evaluation of the impact of the creation of wetlands on the health and safety of vulnerable populations.

Project Description

The highly developed shorelines of Fairfield and New Haven Counties were among the most heavily impacted by Superstorm Sandy (2012). If these counties had more marshland along its coast, it is possible that some of those impacts may have been avoided as studies show that wetland habitats act as natural buffers against waves and powerful storm surges. With funds from the Connecticut Department of Housing CDBG-DR Sandy Recovery Program, this project aims to determine the feasibility of utilizing dredge materials to construct artificial marshes and wetland islands to decrease erosion and improve drainage, which would effectively increase an area’s resilience to the impacts of sea level rise and severe storms. Dually, the utilization of dredge materials could provide a productive end-use of a product which is typically disposed of at a cost.

Creating marshes along shorelines also has the potential to enhance the sustainability of communities by providing public access to natural amenities and maintaining or increasing ecosystem services. This project will result in a feasibility assessment, design parameters, a regulatory framework, and an evaluation of the impact of the creation of wetlands on the health and safety of vulnerable populations.

In order to complete this project the UConn team will complete a literature review and conduct research on the physical and engineering features required to establish artificial wetlands and wetland islands using the most cost-effective dredge materials. Through this process the team will determine design parameters, like wetland gradient, site exposure, and soil type, necessary for on-the-ground construction.

The research team will meet with state and federal regulatory agencies and review existing policies to outline the regulatory framework, including permitting guidance, underpinning this type of project in Connecticut. This will help determine the regulatory bounds of this approach, should it move from theory to practice.

Recognizing that there may be health and safety impacts of developing wetlands and islands on vulnerable populations, the research team will evaluate possible project impacts. This evaluation will include outreach to stakeholders (including members of housing, public health, and emergency preparedness and response groups) to determine criteria and guidance for working with these groups on a potential artificial wetland creation projects in the future.

Upon project completion, the assessment, design parameters, regulatory framework, and evaluation criteria for the impacts on vulnerable populations will form guidelines for the state and municipalities for future projects.

Anticipated completion date: September 2017

 


Researchers and Staff Supported on Project

Jennifer O’Donnell, UConn Department of Marine Sciences

Jamie Vaudrey, UConn Department of Marine Sciences

Craig Tobias, UConn Department of Marine Sciences

Rebecca French, UConn CIRCA

Carolyn Lin, UConn Department of Communications

Paula Schenck, UConn Health

dredge1

Groton/New London Airport, Groton, CT
Photo Credit: Rafeed Hussain

dredge2

Bluff Point State Park Groton, CT
Photo Credit: Rafeed Hussain

“What We Do” Areas

 

 

This project is a part of the following topical areas:

 

Critical Infrastructure Resilience

Living Shorelines

Policy and Planning