Maritime Aquarium reassures Norwalkers on ‘No Significant Impact’ finding

The Maritime Aquarium.

NORWALK, Conn. – Suspicions that more of the Maritime Aquarium will be excised to make way for the Walk Bridge reconstruction than has been publicly stated are unfounded, according to an Aquarium spokesperson.

The Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) released by the Federal Transportation Administration on July 17 raised concern in some quarters with talk of “permanent nature of the impacts” to the aquarium. But Aquarium spokesperson Dave Sigworth said Friday that nothing has changed from what has been said all along.

An observer asked NancyOnNorwalk about the FONSI last week, speculating that perhaps the Connecticut Department of Transportation (ConnDOT) is talking about taking more property than just the land the IMAX Theater sits on because the FONSI mentions both outdoor and indoor exhibits, compensation to the city for property rights to be acquired, and assistance to relocate animals affected by the acquisition. It’s the first time that “outdoor and indoor exhibits” have been mentioned, the observer said.

“Temporary construction easements will adversely impact public and private parking facilities and facilities and operations of the Maritime Aquarium,” the FONSI states. “Construction will impact the Maritime Aquarium, including animal exhibits and the IMAX Theatre. CTDOT is coordinating with the Maritime Aquarium and the City regarding the temporary and/or permanent nature of these impacts.”

“Attached is what we’ve been saying all along, and nothing has changed since we first said it,” Sigworth wrote in an email, sending this statement:

“As has been previously announced, The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk has been in discussions with CTDOT and the City of Norwalk to ensure the viability and vitality of the Aquarium during – and after – the Walk Bridge reconstruction. Offsetting the significant economic damages that will occur due to the project is critical if the Aquarium is to remain one of the state’s largest tourist attractions – and an economic driver for the city and state.

“Discussions continue, with the purpose that The Maritime Aquarium receives proper compensation for the loss of its IMAX Theater and other changes to the building and its exhibitry. Loss of the IMAX Theater and that vital revenue stream without a replacement would be detrimental to the long-term sustainability of the organization. Other substantial changes to the institution are necessary to ensure the safety of our animals and guests, and to not diminish the full Aquarium experience.

“While negotiations for remuneration are not complete, discussions have progressed enough for The Maritime Aquarium to begin acting on its Walk Bridge response, including planning for the relocation of certain exhibits and construction of a new theater on the Aquarium campus. Details will become available upon a final agreement between the Aquarium, CTDOT and the city.”

Norwalk Economic Development Director Elizabeth Stocker said in June that the aquarium’s IMAX Theater would be demolished – after a new theater is built. Sources said in September that a new IMAX would be paid for by the state.

“Some of the area along the river will be used for equipment necessary to repair the bridge. Those areas will be temporary easements,” Mayor Harry Rilling said Saturday in an email.

He continued, “Some of the exhibits will need to be relocated so the animals will not be disturbed by the vibrations and noise during construction. We continue to meet with ConnDot on a frequent basis to discuss easements they will need and fair compensation to local businesses, the aquarium, and the City.”

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