The Connecticut Institute for Resilience and Climate Adaptation (CIRCA) is pleased to announce the results of past round of grants under its Matching Funds Program. Collectively these projects will work to advance the mission of the Institute, increasing resiliency in Connecticut towns and cities to the threats of climate change. In total, CIRCA will provide nearly $100,000 in matching funds to support these diverse and important projects:
Matching Funds Grant Program | Awarded Projects
(alphabetical by organization)
Clean Water Fund – Execution of EASE Program (“Education and Action for Secure Energy”) to provide education and technical assistance for municipalities planning for energy security and resilience
EASE (“Education and Action for Secure Energy”) is a focused program of education and technical assistance to help local decision makers in Connecticut plan for a secure supply of energy in extreme weather and other emergencies and to plan more broadly for local energy security and independence. EASE brings together state and private sector experts, and a peer to peer support system to help participants address these challenges and take full advantage of emerging renewable technologies. The program is run through The Clean Water Fund, which consists of a team of expert advisors on energy, infrastructure, and planning.
This CIRCA Matching Fund grant allows an EASE pilot program to be refined and fully implemented. The pilot was initially presented in the fall of 2016 to an audience of volunteers from Clean Energy Task Forces. A refined curriculum will be rolled out to an expanded audience of elected officials, appointed boards and commissions, municipal staff and volunteer committee members in the winter and spring of 2017.
This program will support the establishment of solid frameworks and road maps to guide local planning for energy security and resiliency. It will produce and provide clear and technically sound approaches and strategies for engaging needed local partners to help those responsible for energy supply management and security in Connecticut municipalities. EASE will help local government staff, board, and commission members to reach a shared understanding of what it takes to ensure the resiliency of local energy systems and infrastructure to keep our communities safe.
- Project Lead: Melissa Everett, Clean Water Fund
- Primary Funding Source: Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation
May 2017 Product: CFE_CIRCA Poster
Eastern Connecticut Conservation District – Niantic River Watershed 4-Town Bio-infiltration, Filtration & Rainwater Collection Project
The Eastern Connecticut Conservation District (ECCD), in partnership with the Towns of East Lyme, Waterford, Salem and Montville, as well as other local civic and conservation organizations, will conduct a four-town implementation project to install Low Impact Development (LID) practices, including 6 tree filter units, 20 rain gardens, 20 Smart Sponges and distribute 30 rain barrels, to collect or intercept, filter and infiltrate stormwater, and reduce the primary pollutants of concern (bacteria and nutrients) to the Niantic River and Long Island Sound. This project will address the listed water quality impairment including the reduction of nutrient and bacteria loading from stormwater outfalls to the Niantic River, and will implement a management recommendation to reduce pollutant loading to the Niantic River. Community groups will be engaged to assist with installing LID practices including rain gardens and rain barrels, and conduct education and outreach efforts to create a climate-literate public. ECCD has selected proposed LID practices because the use of LID has been demonstrated to ameliorate the effects of climate change and provide water quality benefits by capturing and infiltrating stormwater.
- Project Lead: Dan Mullins, ECCD
- Primary Funding Source: Clean Water Act, Section 319 Program
Kent Land Trust – Creation of a Strategic Workplan to Identify Parcels Enhancing Climate Resilience
The Kent Land Trust was established in 1989 to preserve natural resources in Kent and surrounding areas through land protection, stewardship, public outreach, education, and research. The primary goal of their CIRCA Matching Fund project was to develop a more science-based climate-focused land acquisition and land management strategy. The new model strikes a balance between cultural, historic, and aesthetic considerations and natural resource criteria linked to climate resilience. The Kent Land Trust uses this conservation strategy to increase engagement with partners to develop more sustainable natural and human communities. Outcomes include:
- Establishment of enhanced selection criteria for KLT land protection efforts,
- Comprehensive and science-based management priorities for existing properties based on the revised conservation strategy,
- Engagement with the Town of Kent, including the Kent Conservation Commission, and other local and regional conservation partners in associated efforts to develop more sustainable communities.
- Project Lead: Connie Manes, Kent Land Trust
- Primary Funding Source: Kent Land Trust
Product: Kent Land Trust Final Report
Lower Connecticut River Valley Regional Council of Governments (RiverCOG) – Regional Long Term Recovery-Land Use Resiliency Plan
Northwest Conservation District – Building Municipal Resilience Using Low Impact Development Design
Northwest Conservation District (NCD) is working in partnership with CIRCA and the Northwest Hills COG to develop a model Low Impact Development (LID) Design Manual. The prototype manual has been developed in the town of Morris containing Bantam Lake and substantial drinking water watershed lands. With this CIRCA Matching Fund award, NCD will produce customized LID Design Manuals to guide development in the towns of Washington, Warren and Woodbury. NCD is working with elected officials, land use commissions and staff as well as the design/build community to build broad understanding and support for the use of LID. Each town will adopt their customized LID Manual as the standard for future development. The LID Manuals will establish clear expectations for all land use changes, enhance cooperation among all parties and improve environmental protection. The LID Design Manual will provide the technical framework to implement strategies to protect local water resources from adverse impacts associated with climate change and development.
- Project Lead: Jean Cronauer, Northwest Conservation District
- Primary Funding Source: Connecticut Community Foundation
Sacred Heart University – Stratford Point Living Shoreline: Restoring Coastal Habitats to Maintain Resiliency and Function
Led by researchers at Sacred Heart University, this project expands an existing living shoreline project at Stratford Point, Fairfield County, Connecticut. On-going coastal restoration efforts and research at the site consist of an artificial reef, smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) marsh, high marsh, coastal dune and upland woody/grassland mosaics. In total, the project will provide an additional 750 feet of coastal erosion control, 4.5 acres of intertidal habitat, 1.5 acres of coastal dune habitat and 25 acres of woodland/meadow mix. Subsequent monitoring will provide additional understanding regarding the potential effectiveness of living shorelines as a means to increase coastal resilience and will inform future designs/guidelines for Connecticut and coastal communities in New England.
- Project Lead: Jennifer Mattei, Sacred Heart University Department of Biology
- Primary Funding: S. Army Corps of Engineers Connecticut In-Lieu Fee Program
Product: The Stratford Point Living Shoreline Final Report
May 2017 Poster: Mattei Stratford Point CIRCA Poster
University of Connecticut – How Will Sea Level Rise-Driven Shifts in Wetland Vegetation Alter Ecosystem Services?
This project examines how sea level rise (SLR) - induced shifts in vegetation will mediate ecosystem service provision by LIS coastal wetlands. Specifically, the project will: 1) quantify the delivery of ecosystem services associated with dominant tidal wetland plant species of the LIS; 2) examine impacts of SLR and interactions; 3) forecast how shifts in dominant tidal wetland species will alter ecosystem service provision of LIS coastal wetlands; 4) promote understanding of the complex interactions among SLR, coastal wetlands, and ecosystem services among diverse audiences in the LIS region.
- Project Lead: Beth Lawrence, UConn Natural Resources and the Environment
- Primary Funding: Long Island Sound Study – Connecticut Sea Grant Research Awards
May 2017 Product: Lawrence CIRCA Poster May 2017
University of Connecticut – Natural Resources Conservation Academy: Fostering Young Scientists in Connecticut Communities
The Natural Resources Conservation Academy’s mission is to provide transformative and authentic learning opportunities to diverse groups of high school students; stimulating critical thinking, creativity, decision-making, and appreciation of science application and nature while contributing to local environmental solutions. The NRCA directly educates high school students from throughout the state each year on climate change effects in Connecticut as well as solutions to climate change issues. All NRCA student conservation projects are conducted in both coastal and inland communities and a majority of projects address adaptation or mitigation solutions to climate change. Student conservation projects also often include an educational component, in which the student’s community will learn about the climate change issue that the student’s project is addressing and possible solutions. NRCA will advance the development of resilience and sustainability of coastal and inland communities that are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
- Project Lead: Laura Cisneros, UConn Natural Resources and the Environment
- Primary Funding: Diebold Foundation
University of Connecticut – Public Support for Adaptation to Sea Level Rise
This project is intended to provide insight about the public value of gains and losses in both natural and built assets maintained in the face of a dynamic, changing coastal environment. The project will develop and implement a survey, drawing on established tools of environmental economics to gather knowledge about factors affecting the willingness of Connecticut coastal residents to support incentives or programs that lead coastal landowners and decision makers to alter plans for climate adaptation to better reflect the value of public trust resources that may be lost as a result of a narrow focus on defense of built assets.
A spreadsheet-based tool will be created that decision-making advisors could use to evaluate the relative value of climate adaptation scenarios in the context of landowners in a position to propose adaptation actions using conventional coastal armoring or green(er) options. The project will also contribute:
- Knowledge regarding how coastal stakeholders identify the relative value of critical coastal habitats in the context of their desire to sustain services of developed land-uses while protecting ecosystem assets affecting human well-being;
- Quantitative and qualitative evaluation of public priorities for rational use of coastal and marine space;
- Economic and social science-based information to aid communities developing plans for coastal resilience to be better able to identify policy or incentive alternatives that balance human-built and natural assets;
- Foundations for policy decisions that better align economic incentives with such public priorities.
Beneficiaries will include policy and legislative officials (through our outreach involvement), residents of coastal communities needing to understand the priorities of their neighbors, and conservation organizations attempting to sustain ecosystem services.
- Project Lead: Stephen Swallow, UConn Agricultural and Resource Economics
- Primary Funding: Connecticut Sea Grant Research Awards
May 2017 Product: Swallow CIRCA Poster
University of Connecticut – Resilient Coastal Communities Under Wind and Flood Hazards
This project seeks to improve the resiliency of coastal communities by better understanding the trade-offs in single family residential (SFR) building design that is preferred for reduction of flood hazard exposure (via elevation) but, simultaneously, increasing exposure to wind-related hazards. Because flooding caused so much damage during Sandy, the adaptive response has been to change zoning regulations and building codes to require, in certain locations, elevation of single-family homes above new higher flood levels. For example, in Fairfield where flooding damaged thousands of homes, 48 single-family residences (SFR) are now elevated with additional SFR elevations already in the planning stages. While elevating homes minimizes flood risk, these newly elevated homes may now be at greater risk from exposure to damaging winds.
Complicating wind hazard exposures in Connecticut and other New England regions are SFR building designs which tend to be multiple stories high (e.g., typical colonial) with steeply sloping roofs. These typical design elements exacerbate the potential risk from wind damage because building height and roof slope increase wind loads. And, while existing SFR homes must be elevated, no wind retrofit design elements are required to be installed during the elevation process. The question coastal communities’ must consider is, do SFR elevation requirements without consideration of additional wind load exposure make their community more (or less) resilient? This project aims to help coastal communities answer this question by exploring the tradeoffs between flood and wind risks.
To evaluate these trade-offs, damage assessment methodologies for coastal communities under wind and flood hazards will be built and applied to real-world residential buildings in Fairfield and Milford. Deliverables include: 1) geographical information systems (GIS) based community resiliency maps for wind and flood hazards; 2) maps showing potential reductions in separate and multi-hazard vulnerabilities; 3) design parameters for new and retrofit SFR, such as recommended elevation height of low rise buildings to avoid flood hazard, building type or roof type and slope, etc.; and 4) educational materials on wind/flood hazard and recommendations to improve coastal community resiliency.
- Project Lead: Wei Zhang, UConn Civil and Environmental Engineering
- Primary Funding: Connecticut Sea Grant Research Awards
City of Norwalk - The Village Creek Saltmarsh Restoration Demonstration
The Village Creek Saltmarsh Restoration project will restore sustainability and resiliency to the degraded Village Creek Estuary in Norwalk, CT. Property damage due to coastal flooding happens very frequently in this area and with the increase in sea level rise and extreme weather events, coastal damage is projected to increase even more in the coming years. Historically, this healthy ecosystem acted as a buffer to storm damage. However, after years of contamination and neglect it has lost its functionality, not only to coastal resilience but as habitat for important aquatic species that live in the Sound. Through largely investigatory and scientific analyses, the Village Creek Saltmarsh Restoration project will assess the most feasible and cost effective way to bring stability and resiliency back to this coastal community.
- Project Lead: Rover Everich, Norwalk Land Trust
- Primary Funding: National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
Capitol Region Council of Governments (CRCOG) - Capitol Region Natural Hazards Mitigation Plan Update
The Capitol Region Council of Governments (CRCOG) was awarded Pre-Disaster Mitigation grant funding from FEMA to update a multi-jurisdictional natural hazard mitigation plan by mid-2019. CIRCA’s Matching Funds award is being used to support the plan update. Goals of the plan update are to: 1) assist participating municipalities in assessing risks and local capabilities related to natural disasters, and evaluating and establishing mitigation strategies including policies and actions that can be implemented to reduce risk and future losses from floods, dam failure, drought, forest fires, winter storms, hurricanes, tornados, windstorms, earthquakes, sea level rise and other natural hazards identified through the planning process; and 2) create a FEMA-approved natural hazard mitigation plan update that will enable participating municipalities to apply for FEMA hazard mitigation project grants. CIRCA funds will support public outreach efforts and inform the assessment of local and regional risks.
- Project Lead: Lynne Pike DiSanto, Capitol Region Council of Governments
- Primary Funding: US Department of Homeland Security/FEMA