Norwalk’s hurricane damage spurring harbor keepers to action

A view from Norwalk’s Sheffield Island, post Hurricane Sandy. (Courtesy Peter Bondi.)

By Nancy Guenther Chapman

NORWALK, Conn. – The protective jewels off Norwalk’s coast need help in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, harbor keepers say.

“The Norwalk Island chain acts as barrier islands to Norwalk, so we wouldn’t necessarily suffer the same damage as Fairfield, or Southport or places like that, that have no islands to stop the wind and the waves from coming,” said Tony D’Andrea, chairman of the Harbor Management Commission.

The chain took a beating, D’Andrea and other harbor commission members say. If Norwalk wants to maintain that protection, there’s work to be done.

The dirt was washed off of Goose Island, leaving only gravel, they say. Copps Island took heavy damage. Sheffield Island lost “probably 100,000 cubic yards,” according to D’Andrea.

“There’s a lot of erosion on Fish and Wildlife’s property (on Sheffield Island),” Peter Bondi of the Norwalk Seaport Association said. The seawall on the south side “did what it was supposed to do,” protecting the Seaport’s property.

All of that sand and dirt went somewhere, harbor commission members say – meaning that it’s in the harbor, possibly on the shellfish beds. The sediment needs to be dredged, and the islands need to be replenished, they said.

At Wednesday’s Harbor Management meeting, commissioners expressed a lot of frustration that a plan has not been made.

“What amazes me is other towns have done that,” said John Pinto, Ph. D. “Southport’s administration got together with harbor management and assessed their harbor problems. Milford has done the same thing. Stratford. Every administration has gotten together with their harbor commission and put together a plan. Not us. There’s something wrong.”

D’Andrea was frustrated as well. “I’ve contacted Tad Diesel in the mayor’s office, trying to, in some form, discuss damage in Norwalk Harbor other than docks and ramps and piers,” he said. “…We took significant damage on those islands. There hasn’t been a report, a letter, a smoke signal or a telegraph line to anybody to explain anything . All the towns around us have an actionable plan for remediation.”

D’Andrea said the only person who had been willing to listen to him was Department of Public Works Director Hal Alvord. “God Bless Hal,” he said.

D’Andrea suggested that he might be the “wrong guy” to be getting action, prompting Pinto to wonder if the city would “sacrifice millions of dollars of losses” over personality.

But on Sunday, D’Andrea was more mellow and optimistic on the topic. There had still been “zero feedback” from the mayor’s office, but Alvord was listening.

“I have high confidence Hal will do the best thing, because he’s a good guy and he truly has the best interests of everybody at heart,” D’Andrea said. “They need a little time to work on it. … It hasn’t been that long.”

Southport, Stratford and Milford have an actionable plan because they don’t have islands, he said. “The challenge of the islands is something that is going to be ongoing and will take a while,” he said.

Commission members hope to draw attention to the concept at Wednesday’s State of the Harbor Annual Meeting, at 7 p.m. in the Common Council chambers at City Hall.

“We need to make sure that the powers that be within our own city understand that city property and city-responsible property that clearly falls within the lines that are Norwalk have been damaged,” D’Andrea said Wednesday. “We need to make sure that there’s a report that’s been generated so we can look at whether there is going to be future erosion by the rising sea level.”


2 responses to “Norwalk’s hurricane damage spurring harbor keepers to action”

  1. NorwalkCT

    Perhaps you can get the Mayor to care if you put up a big long yellow ribbon on the island and bring some big fake scissors and…most importantly…a camera and reporter.

  2. oldtimer

    The mayor has a very narrow focus on damage to the harbor and shellfish beds. He looks for an immediate cash return before he considers committing any of the city’s limited resources to such an effort.. Until somebody can show him that kind of quick return, he is not interested. He has no understanding of any benefit (economic) to the City from the harbor, the islands, or the shellfish beds, and is not much interested in learning. We will probably have to wait for a new administration to get support. Hal Alvord, on the other hand, is retired from the Army Corps of Engineers, and has a much longer view. Without support from the mayor, there is probably not much he can do.

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