West Haven to address Cove River issues with $508K federal grant

The Cove River and surrounding marsh land in West Haven in 2016.

The Cove River and surrounding marsh land in West Haven in 2016.

Arnold Gold / Hearst Connecticut Media file photo

WEST HAVEN — The city has received a $508,000 award from the National Coastal Resilience Fund through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to address issues along Cove River, officials said.

The award is expected to fund the analysis and targeted public engagement to identify nature-based solutions along the Cove River, members of the city's federal delegation announced Thursday.

West Haven Flood Plane Manager Doug Colter said the grant, which requires some local matching funds to total $658,000, which will support an environmental engineering study of the Cove River. Colter said the study will look at solutions beyond the impacts of flooding, such as the overall environmental health of the river. He said the city hopes the federal grant is the first of three annual awards, which would ideally culminate in a $10 million award to execute the recommendations made in the feasibility study.

The city has already funded an engineering study for a citywide storm water assessment with federal pandemic recovery funds, which Colter called "separate but integrated" with the NCRF award. Colter said the citywide assessment will ultimately find recommendations for the Cove River, and the $658,000 feasibility study would be a natural continuation of the work.

West Haven Parks and Recreation Director Mark Paine said the award is "a huge benefit to West Haven" because of its ability to address stormwater flooding along the river.

"Mitigating the areas of heavy storm water influx by utilizing things such as retention areas and natural percolation alleviates flooding issues and at the same time yields substantial environmental benefit," Paine said in a statement.

Paine said both the upstream and tidally-influenced areas of the river would benefit from upgrades, as solutions funded by the award could help to reduce the flow of potentially contaminated runoff water from roads. Overall, he said reducing flooding leads to better filtration through existing stormwater infrastructure and helps along the salinization process to maintain marsh metabolism. He credited Mayor Nancy Rossi for her efforts in applying city resources to enhancing the city's natural resources.

Beyond water quality, large parts of the city flood from the Cove River during large storm events. Some residents who live inland have reported property erosion from bodies of water that feed into the Cove River.

In a statement, U.S. Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro, D-3, heralded the grant as an opportunity to address threats to "a valuable component of our community."

"These grants are welcome and will help move our work forward to safeguard our waters and strengthen flood  mitigation capabilities here in Connecticut," she said.