Increased rainwater runoff and storm events have caused major flooding in the Flats of Woodbridge, in particular the area along Litchfield Turnpike. The town is working to draw attention to the problem, recently hosting Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro and planners from the Army Corps of Engineers as well as residents and business owners affected by the flooding.
Mike Walter is one of those who were impacted by flash flooding the evening of September 25, 2018. The culvert that channels an intermittent stream between his property and that of his neighbors backed up, he said. But the opening under the street – both Raymond Road and a bit further down under Litchfield Turnpike – is not high enough to accommodate the amount of water that came rushing down from Route 63. Instead, it filled the culvert, then his yard and driveway, and eventually garage and basement.
A few years ago, when the state replaced the Merritt Avenue bridge and federal funds became available to partially remove the Pond Lily dam, many people in town were hoping that a more smoothly running river would decrease the chance of flooding. But recent storms showed, that the stormwater runoff coming down the hill from Amity Road created its own set of problems.
The culverts were put in decades ago in an effort to channel the runoff from the hill and empty into Konold’s Pond. But by now they are silted up, sometimes crumbling and wholly inadequate to allow the amount of water to pass through, Walter said. “They need to increase the size of the pipes,” he said.
Angelina Fappiano, a homeowner on Litchfield Turnpike, was flooded twice last year, in April and in September. Her raised ranch sustained $25,000 in damage during this last incident alone, flooding the family room, laundry, furnace room, bathroom; and eroding the driveway. “There was enough rain that it changed the course of the streams,” she said. Flood insurance denied coverage, because flooding is a recurring problem in the area. But while the damage was too frequent for federal flood insurance, it was too little for the state to pursue FEMA aid.
“We held public information sessions to help residents fill out damage assessment forms, and collected all these in order to file with the state’s Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection,” said Sheila McCreven, who is spearheading the effort in the first selectman’s office. “We later received word that Woodbridge properties did not incur a large enough loss to qualify for this disaster assistance.”
“A lot of damage, a lot of heartache, a lot of hardship,” said Rep. DeLauro, when she heard about the predicament the residents find themselves in, as she took a tour of the area.
The problem of flooding in the area is a long-standing one. Just recently someone posted on Facebook a 70-year-old newspaper clipping, which announces that “incessant rain” had caused flooding in the area in early April, 1951. “Water, overflowing from Amity Road under the protection of darkness, washed out 10,000 lettuce plants and thousands of onion sets which had been transplanted from the cold-frames. The spinach, the only other crop transplanted so far, escaped with minor damage,” reported the Amity Star.
First Selectman Beth Heller, in a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers, requested that it investigate the continued flooding problems in areas surrounding the West River in Woodbridge. In particular, she asked them to take the economic impact of flooding into consideration.
“We understand that the Corps of Engineers will initially investigate the problem to determine whether it meets the requirements for federal participation,” she wrote. To make that determination, she asked to consider that not only are some 237 homes in the area at risk of flooding, but some 282 businesses as well. For example, during the September 2018 flash flood, Coachman Square had cars floating in the parking lot, Heller said when she toured the area with Rosa DeLauro.
Chris Hatfield, an engineer in the Corps’ planning division, said the Corps is investigating the feasibility of widening the channel of the West River in Westville. “We are looking at increasing the capacity of the river,” he said. But existing houses on the river bank in Woodbridge limit the options. “We will need to do a cost-benefit analysis,” he said.
- Selectmen, residents and representatives of the Army Corps of Engineers meet with Rep. Rosa DeLauro (center, with a teal scarf) to tour the area affected by flooding
- Culvert under Litchfield Turnpike contributes to flooding in major rain events
By Bettina Thiel – Woodbridge Town News Correspondent