Sandy’s surge battered Norwalk Islands, officials say

Rocks are strewn on Norwalk’s Sheffield Island after the departure of Hurricane Sandy. Photo courtesy of Peter Bondi, Norwalk Seaport Association.

By Nancy Guenther Chapman

NORWALK, Conn. –The storm surge came in from Hurricane Sandy, taking a lot of Sheffield Island’s land with it, filling the lighthouse’s basement with water and damaging the seawalls, according to Peter Bondi of the Norwalk Seaport Association.

Sheffield Island is not alone. All of the Norwalk Islands took a severe hit, Harbor Management Commission members say. “We took significant damage on those islands,” said Tony D’Andrea, commission chairman.

Rick Potvin of The United States Fish and Wildlife Service offered these details:

  • The old submarine watch station on Goose Island suffered a lot of damage and needs to be taken down, said. “Quite a bit of that island was eroded away,” he said.
  • Chimon Island suffered heavy beach erosion and there was minor damage to the island keeper’s house.
  • There was severe erosion on the sand spit on Fish and Wildlife’s Sheffield Island property. The walls were cracked in the bathroom and sanitation station, and 300 linear feet of the shoreline was destabilized.

Norwalk Department of Parks and Recreation Director Mike Mocciae said both of the two city-owned islands, Shea and Grassy, were covered with water during the storm. “A lot of vegetation is gone, however the beach is fine at Shea and the wilderness outhouses are fine,” he said in an e-mail. “Some campsite and park signs were damaged on both islands.”

There is some erosion on Shea, he said, but the city does not plan to put in a claim with FEMA.

Bondi said the six feet of water in the Sheffield Island Lighthouse’s basement ruined collectible items, flooring and trim and other miscellaneous items that were kept there. The sea water also damaged the lighthouse’s electrical panel, but “luckily it didn’t get to the first floor.”

The surge also undermined the lighthouse’s front right corner. That’s not a big deal, as it has happened before, he said. “It’s not structural. It’s not in danger of collapsing,” he said. “The buildings were built to withstand that kind of storm.” He added that they have been there since 1888.

Several roof slate tiles were ripped off the lighthouse by the wind.

Other Seaport Association Sheffield Island damage includes water in the basement of the keeper’s cottage, where the front left corner was undermined. A door was damaged on the generator shed and the ramp is gone.

The grounds were covered in rocks, slipper shell and sand, and there are sink holes. The pier has four or five damaged sections and a bracket broke on the dock. A 12-foot section of the south seawall collapsed and the walkover washed away. There were several sections breached on the north seawall.

It will cost around $75,000 to get the north seawall replaced, he said. The Seaport Association is working with its insurance company and FEMA, he said.

Harbor Management Commissioners say damage to the islands needs to be repaired for the protection of Norwalk.

“They’re barrier islands,” D’Andrea said. “They stop the big waves from coming in and hitting shore points. They act as a buffer for wind and wave action.”


One response to “Sandy’s surge battered Norwalk Islands, officials say”

  1. John Frank

    CL&P has some very high voltage transmission lines crossing the east end of Sheffield Island that they didn’t bury, but covered with concrete pads. They probably should get a look at them at low tide and be sure the storm didn’t create a hazardous condition. They put up a 1.5 million dollar performance bond to guarantee they would restore the bottom where cables crossed the harbor. It has been more than five years and they have not restored the bottom. The City should call the bond.

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