Bridgeport, businesses talk storm preparedness
As hurricanes and floods are predicted to become more frequent along the East Coast, business owners are looking for answers on how to protect their investments.
Kris Lorch owns Alloy Engineering Co. Inc., a Bridgeport factory less than 500 feet from the coastline. Every time it floods, her company is impacted. After Hurricane Sandy, her factory was under a foot and a half of water and much of her equipment — some costing up to $5,000 apiece — had to be taken apart and repaired.
“We had to take every machine apart, clean every motor, every pump, every transformer, every kind of circuit board in every machine,” Lorch said to a small group at the Bridgeport Government Center. “This is how I make a living.”
“What is the city going to do for me? Because I can’t protect myself,” Lorch added. “I’m not happy. I don’t see a good plan here.”
Inspired by Lorch’s story, city officials from Bridgeport, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and business owners gathered Feb. 4 to discuss initial steps on how to prepare for future storm damage. City representatives said going forward they’d like to establish a working group with business leaders surrounding natural disaster mitigation.
Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) officials, with the help of disaster aid approved by Congress, are working on long-term natural disaster recovery plans and holding an upcoming resiliency summit with business owners from across the state.
In Bridgeport, Mayor Bill Finch said he was looking into ways to reduce flooding, while at the same time making Bridgeport a “green” city.
“The genie is already out of the bottle,” Finch said. “We know we have to fortify the city. We’re a coastal community. We’ve got to do something so that the sneaky parts of these storms don’t continue to ruin our property.”
Finch said he was looking into building a dike and seawalls, more effective sewer water separation infrastructure, blue roof technology that traps millions of gallons of water and continued efforts to plant 2,000 trees a year to soak up stormwater.
Finch also mentioned the need to reduce surface parking lots and plans to put a linear park on Lincoln Boulevard to trap rainwater while simultaneously increasing property values.
“We have a big challenge here,” Finch said. “We know water level is going to rise and we know we need to fortify it.”
Donald Watson, an EarthRise Design architect partnered with the city, also said there are several steps property owners can take to make their buildings more flood resistant. Buildings can be redesigned to both prevent and allow planned flooding, machinery can be elevated and roofs and gutters can be replaced and cleaned to more effectively deal with stormwater, he said.
Officials who spoke at the Feb. 4 event said storm recovery and prevention has historically taken years to address and be implemented. A public mind shift needs to occur, especially at the federal government level. It’s a question of how much people are willing to spend to mitigate the risk, one presenter said.
“We know that disasters are happening more,” said Scott Appleby, certified energy manager of Bridgeport’s Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security. “It’s only a matter of time until we have another one.”