Activist questions reconstruction plan for Norwalk beach pier

Recreation and Parks Department Director Mike Mocciae hopes that work to repair the Calf Pasture Beach fishing pier will begin in June.

(Correction 6:11 p.m. Tuesday, April 9:  In the second paragraph, the terms used by Ms. Lauricella was “climate change and sea level rise,” not global warming. NancyOnNorwalk regrets the error.)

NORWALK, Conn. – Hurricane standards are built into the plans to rebuild the Calf Pasture Beach fishing pier, but one Norwalk activist has been pleading: “Let’s not just keep building the same pier only to have it be destroyed, then rebuilt on the taxpayers’ dime.”

Diane Lauricella, an environmental consultant, has been speaking with Department of Recreation and Parks Director Mike Mocciae and at public hearings, trying to persuade officials that the angle of the pier should be reconsidered, that the plan to raise the pier a maximum of 5 feet is insufficient. Climate change and sea level rise are facts, she says, and we won’t have to wait another 100 years for weather with the strength of Superstorm Sandy.

Lauricella points to a study done for the city by Bourne Consulting Engineering of Franklin, Mass. So does Mocciae.

The study says it would be best to raise the pier 9 feet, but says it would be impractical.

“If the pier can be constructed above the wave crest elevation, it will be much less susceptible to future storm damage,” the study says. “The existing pier deck elevation, based on survey prior to Sandy, is +13.4 feet above Mean Low Water (MLW). … In order to minimize future damage for a 100-year event, the pier deck would need to be raised above Elevation +21.7 MLW. This would require raising the pier by approximately 9 feet, which will be impractical at this location without major changes to the existing jetty. The base width of the jetty would need to increase by approximately 36 feet with a significant area of new impacts of approximately 5,000 square feet. Expanding the jetty would require approximately 8,000 tons at a cost of $800,000.”

The 2013-2014 capital budget, which includes funds to rebuild the pier, will be voted on Tuesday night by the Common Council.

A letter written Feb. 1 by Finance Director Thomas Hamilton explains, “$750,000 has been recommended to pay for the cost of restoring and hardening the seawall and fishing pier at Calf Pasture Beach, which was destroyed in Storm Sandy. $650,000 was appropriated in the FY 2012-13 capital budget for repairs to the seawall and fishing pier, which had been damaged in the earlier August 2011 storm Irene. The total cost of replacing and hardening these facilities is now estimated at $1.4 million, which includes raising the elevation of the deck of the fishing pier by three feet.”

Mocciae said raising the pier 9 feet isn’t feasible.

“The environmental impact would be too great,” he said. “You’d have to widen the jetty to accommodate the height of the pier. Once you widen the jetty, now you’re going into the fragile ecosystems on either side. What Diane doesn’t read into is we’re even going up higher than three. We’re starting at three, we’re doing an incline that is accessible – a foot, spread out across about 150 feet. Once we get to one transition point, we go up another foot. At the end, we’ll be up 5, 5½ feet higher than it is. Which is the main platform area.”

Lauricella has a problem with the Bourne report: It uses data from Bridgeport, as none is available from Norwalk. Not due diligence, she said.

“They misstate the actual current situation at the beach,” she said at a March hearing. “I ask that this go back to the drawing board.”

Mocciae doesn’t see that as an issue. “These are pretty reputable people,” he said, of the company.

Lauricella also thinks the angle of the pier should be studied, an idea she says she got by “reading, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) info, years being around engineers, taking physics class, oceanography class and reading about wave action and climate change.”

“Bottom line, even though each storm could be coming from a different direction, the pier seems to be an expensive ‘sitting duck,’” she said in an email.

Mocciae said the cost for the pier will be $1.2 million, with some reimbursement expected from FEMA. “I don’t know how much yet but I would say at least $500,000,” he said.

The design is maintenance friendly, with galvanized handrails to prevent splinters, and it will be handicapped accessible, with lowered railings in spots so people in wheelchairs can fish.

The pier wouldn’t have been damaged as much if it were built to hurricane code, he said. Milford’s pier sustained heavy damage during Sandy, he said, “But they didn’t lose piles, they didn’t lose the main stringers; they lost the decking, the rails. With current standards, you don’t sustain as much damage.”

He hopes the work will begin in June so beach-goers will see something is being done. “After two storms, the paperwork gets hairy, he said, referring to FEMA.

It needs to get rebuilt, he said, even with the risk of weather.

“If we get a storm like Irene again, I think we’ll go through without any problems,” he said. “Sandy was a 100-year storm. If we get that? I don’t know, if we get it again,soon. What are you going to do? The pier is quite an attraction and it’s really the only fishing pier in the city. We have to build it again. We’re just building it stronger and to current code.”

Bourne Consulting report on beach pier


11 responses to “Activist questions reconstruction plan for Norwalk beach pier”

  1. M. Murray

    Stopped reading at “Global warming is a fact”.

  2. EveT

    Coastal erosion is a fact. Shorelines move, generally in a retreating direction. “Hardening” can delay the movement, but eventually you end up with no beach because the sand is scoured away.

  3. oldtimer

    Couldn’t they raise it more without widening the ramp leading up to it, if they used steps with a ramp for wheelchairs ? It is not just the platform at the end that was heavily damaged. Paying for expert consultants and not following their advice doesn’t make sense.

  4. Entropy is a fact

    Global warming is a theory, not a fact.

    It’s the sun, stupid.

  5. Tim T

    Actually global warming is a FACT. The only ones that do not see this FACT are some far right wingers. Of course these are the same group that still believes cigarettes don’t cause cancer.

  6. “NancyOnNorwalk regrets the error”that she got called out on her liberal slant. She tried real hard to keep to the liberal lies alive for their program. But when an environmetalist doesn’t utter the insidious words “Global Warming” and she does, then you know true journalistic ethics have been tossed aside.

  7. Entropy is a fact

    Some far left wingers could have missed what every grade school science student knows. Theories are not established facts by themselves, but eventually theories can become laws. Like the law of gravity. It isn’t the theory of gravity. And it isn’t the law of global warming. But then logic to some far left wingers support theories that giving everyone free health care will reduce costs of healthcare, so I can see where such conclusions originate.

  8. @Irish Girl
    The term “Global Warming” has been around for decades. The term “climate change” is much newer. The old phrase stuck in my head as I was paraphrasing Ms Lauricella’s comments. We made sure to highlight the correction at the top of the story. If I were trying to hide something that wouldn’t be the way to do it.

  9. Tim T

    The right wingers can ramble on and on but it doesn’t change the FACT that Global warming is a FACT.

  10. Tim,
    You can stomp your feet as much as you want – GlobalWarming is not a fact but changing climates (warm and cold) have been what made this planet.

    My gad tim, your tenacity to align anything you can negatively to the Republican party really has you freakishly obsessed with the good image of the republicans and something you can’t change however hard you try (and you are trying mighty hard)

  11. Tim T


    1. 90% of the global warming has been caused by human factors since 1950. This data was just released by the UN in a recent report on climate change. This panel studied the main components of climate change to determine that humans had caused the majority of the climate change.

    2. The hottest decade spanned from 2000-2009. During this 10-year time period, the temperature was a degree hotter than in 1970. While this may seem like a small amount, even a small temperature increase is significant in global matters.

    3. Global warming facts,the year 2011 saw the most CO2 dumping at the rate of about 1000 tons/second into the air. Factories were the highest causes of CO2 emissions. The numbers for 2012 are also expected to be high.

    4. The sea level has risen approximately 1 inch. Scientists predict that at the current rate, the sea level rising will become a serious problem by the year 2100.

    5. China is a worse offender than the US in CO2 emissions. They emit about 40% more CO2 than the US currently. Since China is known for their factories and as a major producer of goods, lowering their amount of emissions has been uneffective so far.

    6. The CO2 level is currently the highest it’s been in 650,000 years. There has been an 11% increase since 1950. The rate at which CO2 is rising is cause for concern for many scientists and other people in the environmental field.

    7. Climate change has had a huge change on the earth. For example, when earth was only 9 degrees cooler, the ice over New York City was over 2000 feet thick. There is a chance that the Earth will be 9 degrees hotter by 2100. This change would have a huge impact on the current landmass.

    8. Global warming facts, Reducing the CO2 emissions by 20% would be incredibly cheap and only cost about 16 cents per person every day. By taxing companies that produce large CO2 emissions, this would encourage lessening of the emissions.

    9. One of the largest obstacles to climate change strategies is that the US and China must cooperate. If these two countries are able to band together and start setting an example with climate change, Europe, Japan, India, and Australia would also go along with the policies set and begin changing their methods as well.

    10. The current tactics are not working. Unfortunately, caps are usually being given to some of the poorest countries instead of trying to cap emissions in wealthier countries that produce more emissions. Caps are not also the only way to counteract climate change. There needs to be a reform in the way that scientists approach the public with climate change and the way that countries view environmental policy.

    These 10 global warming facts reflect some of the current concerns about the planet and how it is changing. In order to combat these changes, new laws and limitations will need to be made as well as global environmental policies

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