House Speaker Chris Donovan announced Monday the creation of a task force to examine how shoreline communities can be better prepared for incidents like Tropical Storm Irene.
The nine-member group, which will be headed by East Haven Rep. James Albis, will make recommendations to the legislature on how best to protect seaside communities. Donovan said that while Irene caused tens of millions of dollars in property damage, it could have been worse.
“If Irene had not been degraded to a tropical storm and instead have hit the shore as a Category 1 or 2 hurricane, it could have actually caused a lot more damage,” he said.
Albis said sea levels are rising and home owners and businesses are still recovering from the damage of the tropical storm. The group will address the unique needs of shoreline communities, with regards to coastal erosion, as well as storm preparation and response, he said.
Andy Weinstein of East Haven said he lost his home during the storm. He said a projection from the Connecticut Nature Conservancy shows a 30-block area which would disappear if the state were hit by a Category 2 storm. Weinstein said the high tide line where he lives has come up 40 feet in the last 40 years.
“It’s an issue that needs to be addressed. I don’t have land to move back any further than I’m moving right now,” he said.
Rep. Richard Roy, D-Milford, said when shoreline homes are destroyed by storms, owners shouldn’t rush to rebuild them.
“I think we should work with real estate agents and builders to make sure when we do build, we build in a safer area than right on the beach,” he said. “… Buying a house and having it wash away is no fun.”
Rep. Lonnie Reed, D- Branford, said the group will help the legislature be proactive about climate change and rising seas.
“The reality is that rising seas and climate change are not the figment of some wacky environmental imagination,” she said. “… Instead of being reactive we need to be proactive and come up with some approaches that will deal with this reality in smart ways.”
The group expects to have recommendations by December for next year’s session, and if possible get some legislation passed this year.
In a statement, Sen. Len Fasano, R- North Haven, said that while he looks forward to serving on the task force, residents devastated by Tropical Storm Irene need immediate legislation to deal with beach erosion.
“We can not wait an entire year to report back to the General Assembly about an issue that is affecting these people now,” he said.